Words of Encouragement (1):
We all find ourselves in a situation that we’ve never experienced before (a global pandemic! ), one that can feel frightening, nerve-wracking and filled with uncertainty and worry. A situation that none of us expected to be facing this year, or perhaps ever! Yet notice that *we* are facing this together, and it is affecting *us*. I’d like to try as much as possible to offer some snippets of regular encouragement to help us all through as a community.
To start with, I’d like to encourage you that you are not alone, we are all facing this together, and if you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach out to bloggers, you can reach out to groups, or other friends or family, and even if we don’t have a direct solution, there are a lot of networks forming regularly, with advice, support and practical and emotional help, so someone should be able to point you in the right direction in your area. You’re not alone. We’re in this together. Feel free to open up discussion in the comments because someone might just be able to offer you the encouragement and mutual support that we all need, especially at a time like this. Stay safe and well.
When you imagine someone with a ‘dream-like’ life, what do you see? Someone with strength, courage, confidence, unwavering self-belief? We don’t necessarily have to believe in ourselves to believe in our worth. What do I mean? I mean that we all have failures, flaws, limitations, sin, and none of us can be our own Saviour. Yet, despite all that is imperfect about us, we are still of intrinsic worth as human beings.
When you think of yourself say in the future, living the life of your dreams, what do you desire of your experience? I don’t mean the external things such as money, success, nor even relationships. What do you desire of how you feel about yourself and your experience in life?
This is a journey of discovery for me, and one which I perhaps am not alone in finding that there is a bridge to cross between how I think and feel about myself now and the Truth about my worth that will lead me to experiencing Freedom.
It can sometimes feel as if clouds of negativity follow us, or that negative thoughts have seeped into our experience. It can be hard not to believe them, or to accept that certain things are lies and not the truth about who we are.
Things that cause anxiety, nervousness and fear. Perhaps not even fully-formed thoughts, but just feelings or sensations that cause us to doubt and to feel insecure, and ‘not good enough’. Have you ever felt this way? I certainly have.
Sometimes we believe that these lies are stronger than we are. But they are never stronger than the Truth.
If you are nervous, anxious or afraid, full of self doubt and hiding behind your fears, then it may be a challenge to take big strides into freedom in how you think of and value yourself.
Sometimes thoughts, images, memories from the past, of harmful words spoken over us, and things that have knocked our confidence can linger around us and affect the way we feel and think about ourselves.
It may be difficult to live in the experience of our True worth all at once, but I am a believer that small steps and changes add up over time to make a big difference. I personally know that I will have to continue with my ‘small steps’ because it isn’t easy for me to feel free from the negativity that I have experienced in life.
But what if we take the challenge today to take a ‘small step’, yet a powerful one, one borne in Truth? And what if we were to build upon this, reminding ourselves of the Truth about ourselves every day? Would that make a difference to how we experience our lives? I think it would.
So, today I set a challenge, if you’d like to join me, to simply remind ourselves that the following is True of each and every one of us no matter what we have experienced in life, or what lies we have believed that have damaged our perception and experience of our worth:
“I am a human being of intrinsic worth, I am and always have been, and always will be valuable simply because I am me”.
It’s a small but powerful step, and one we can keep taking day by day. I wonder what a difference it would make to our experience of life if we do?
I feel that God Is working on healing the deep things in me, an ongoing perhaps lifelong process, and that now His Love is gradually enlarging my heart.
Whenever I see a new ‘follower’, or one of you liking my posts, my heart is touched to know that He Is using the painful things in my life, and turning them around, to hopefully encourage, inspire or help other people.
His Love Is at work in my heart and I am seeing this less as a part in my healing journey and more so in feeling somewhat awed to know that there are people, real people, you in this same country, and you on the other side of the world who might have their burdens eased a bit in their day. And that means so much to me. Not just because of the significance of it in my personal journey, but because of God’s Pure Love at work in my heart.
Is it possible to love people I may never meet? Is it possible to care so much about your wellbeing from the other side of a computer? I think it is really beginning to mean much more to me. That’s what you mean to me. People precious to and loved by God, and so He Is pouring His Love for you into my heart.
It touches me to know that you might find some comfort from this little blog, and I will seek and pray for His will to show me how to be an encourager, how to care for those He loves, how to help you when you are down and how to be a friend, albeit behind a computer screen, when you feel alone or in need of some advice on moving forwards.
I write a lot about a lot of different things from creativity, lifestyle, mental health, depression, faith, anxiety, and encouragement to name a few things. I write a lot from experience, so it is authentic, raw and real. If there are any things you would like me to write more about that might help you, please do comment and let me know.
Everyone needs compassion, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
My love and prayers go out to each and every one of you. x
There are so many homeless people who are in need of a kind word, a human touch, some food, drink, warmth, safety or even financial help – is it in your power to give a little to someone this month, to let someone know they’re cared about?
We all need mental resilience to make it through this life. For some of us, this has been a great battle when it comes to our self perception.
Once upon a time, you were born, a precious, adorable, beautiful and wonderful little baby, full of hope and promise. Perhaps like me, you are blessed to be loved by parents who wanted you. Yet, even if you sadly didn’t have that love, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the fact of the miracle of your birth, the wonder of your life, and any person of sound mind and heart would declare the truth that you were born a precious, loveable, beautiful little baby, worthy of love, and to be cherished, regardless of the hand in life or circumstances you were dealt.
Each and every baby, every life is precious, no matter how it came to be. That includes you.
However, somewhere along the way, life got tricky, it got complicated, and we got hurt. Those who were meant to protect us either didn’t or couldn’t and we were wounded. I’d like to focus here specifically on one aspect of wounding or abuse (as this is such a vast topic, I couldn’t do it justice to try to explore in one post all the different ways we can be hurt in this life) – that of words.
Perhaps like many of you, the wounds of words came early in childhood, and consequently caused a great distortion in self image, feelings of worth and confidence. If you have suffered the wounding words of childhood, adolescence and even adulthood, it can be hard to differentiate the effects of those wounds from the truth of who you are. It can be a life long journey. I know.
Perhaps you are stuck in a time, or feeling the reeling pain from memories where you might have been labelled with cruel words such as: ugly, stupid, fat, disgusting, loser, loner, nobody, outcast, dog, pot ugly, idiot, geek, weirdo, or whatever it may have been.
At a formative age, we don’t know the difference between who we are and what we are told about ourselves. I have as a young child, a teenager and an adult been told that I was pretty, lovely, beautiful, etc. However, there was a time in my life growing up that I believed and felt that I was too ugly and disgusting and repulsive to even be alive. I was called ugly, black *****, pot ugly, dog, etc. I was also physically hit and hurt by bullies at school, but that’s another story, I’m just focusing on words for now.
The words literally broke me. I felt repulsive, like a monster, sick to my stomach and I felt like my poor mum had to live with a monster for a daughter, I felt too ugly and worthless to be on this planet, so much so that I felt I would lessen the burden if I wasn’t here. I went through great psychological trauma, and couldn’t express it.
However, the confusion continued when I started getting compliments maybe only a year later. I truly believed that the people saying nice things about me were ridiculing and tormenting me and abusing me further with their mockery. But they weren’t. It didn’t make sense to me that I could go from being the ugliest girl ever to someone who was admired or thought of as pretty. I couldn’t handle or make sense of it, and it takes a very long time to unpick the lies we absorb as children.
The reason why I’m sharing this isn’t merely to provide insight into my story, but to help you with yours. You probably have some wounds caused by words that you still struggle not to believe are true. Were you called ugly, or stupid or worthless? Do the words make it true? Perhaps, like me you internalised them as being true, you felt the horrific feelings that went along with the pain of verbal abuse, and they all but wrecked you. But are they really true? Were they?
As an adult, it has taken me decades to make progress, but I feel I am getting there, and as I get stronger I want to help other people too.
Think back to the image of the baby I told you about. You need to believe that each and every baby is precious. So what happened? Did you and I turn into some kind of monstrous creatures as we grew up? Those words cut so deep and so many people were saying them that surely they were true? No, that’s one of the effects of abuse. The lies wound us and distort our self image, perception and sense of value. You might have heard the illustration that a £20.00 note (or whatever your paper currency is) doesn’t lose its value and worth just because it is crushed and crumpled. It isn’t any less valuable than a crisp new one from the bank. The same goes for you and I. The words are the crumpling, but they don’t determine our worth or our identity or our dignity as human beings.
You and I didn’t grow out of being beautiful, precious, lovable, special babies. We didn’t lose our value. The world told us lies and we believed them and have suffered from that. But our stories don’t need to end there.
Can you love that baby but not the child or adolescent? Why? Why are we like that as a society and individuals? No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are precious. You are worthy in God’s sight, and no lie is of the truth.
You might think it strange to hear me say that we are in a ‘spiritual battle’, but we are. There is evil in this world, that seeks to steal, kill and to destroy. But Jesus Christ came to give us life in all its fulness. He can heal those wounds. It is knowing and believing the Truth that sets us free.
No matter what you look like, or your perceived intelligence levels, social status, or abilities, you are of incredible worth. You are precious, wanted and loved. No matter if you have never been told that by another human being, it’s how God sees you.
And even if you’re not at the point of believing that, just think of your worth as a person. Think of that precious baby. Only a very cruel and callous person hardened by the world and their own hearts could look at a baby and not see it as precious. So look kindly upon yourself, remember that that’s how you started out and the lies you have come to believe about yourself are just that – lies. You are lovable, forgivable, beautiful, worthy, incredible, and you deserve to live.
So grow strong in knowing the Truth. The lies are powerful, but not as powerful as the Truth, so just try to imagine how powerful that Truth actually is and what you can do with it when you share it with the world! No one said it would be easy, but my friend, your journey doesn’t end there. Nor does mine.
Let me leave you and I with some affirmations the truth about who we are:
I was born beautiful, lovely, unique, precious, lovable, one of a kind. I am and always have been special, worthy and full of potential. I can be forgiven, cleansed, cherished. I can overcome lies with the Truth. I can grow strong. Nothing can take away my worth as a human being, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
I am and always have been beautiful, precious, fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the Truth of who I am and nothing and no one can take that away or change it. Maybe life has ‘crumpled’ me a bit, but it hasn’t taken away my value or intrinsic worth and it never will, even if for a while I believe the lies.
But no lie is of the Truth and the Truth of who I am is so much more powerful than any lie that has tried to defeat me or make me feel worthless. I am a human being, and I am precious, and I will live knowing my worth and being kind to and loving myself.
‘Google’ tells me that today is ‘Teachers’ Day’. I did not know this when I learned a lesson yesterday evening about being teachable myself.
Firstly, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of you out there who are teachers of any kind, whether that be in a formal school / educational system for children or adults, those who are older siblings who have committed to helping your younger brothers or sisters to learning something, parents, youth group workers, leaders, instructors, mentors, support workers, lecturers, workshop leaders, or even I guess, bloggers who are committed to sharing knowledge and life lessons. Thank you for taking the time to use what you have learned to invest in another person for their growth and benefit in life.
Good teachers and bad teachers:
I’m sure we all have memories of people in our lives who have taught (or tried to teach) us something and who have left an impression upon us for good or bad. I can think of certain occasions in my school life when I was quite little when the impact of a particular teacher had a positive influence – they left me feeling encouraged, appreciated, valued, and gave me a desire to continue to work well or to do even better. I remember throughout the years being particularly good at some subjects, but lacking confidence in others. I had a variety of violin teachers throughout primary (elementary) school some of whom saw my lack of confidence and continued to teach me with patience and respect. Others, sadly left me feeling a bit scared and demoralised and not good enough.
In secondary / high school I was good at most subjects, but I excelled in English and got good grades in other subjects such as the sciences and maths, however, these did not come with the poise and confidence I had in English studies, and instead it took a lot of hard work, time, quite a few tears, stress, anxiety and struggle. It stands out to me that in my chemistry class one year I really found it tough, and it was mainly to do with the teacher – I felt victimised (whether I was or not I’m not entirely sure), and a lot of people felt the negative attitude from the teacher too. He even admitted to us that he never wanted to be a teacher, he was in the oil or research industry or something like that and had to go into teaching for a more normal family life I think with his wife and kids. It showed that he never liked to teach us, and as a result I thought I was ‘rubbish’ at chemistry and I thought I hated it.
I had a revelation the following year when a new teacher taught the class – he was great, encouraging, friendly and helpful. Things started to make sense and I realised I actually really liked learning this subject now and I could be good at it, at least at that level. It’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t realise that sooner, but I’m glad for the opportunity to have a better teacher for the last year that I studied the subject before choosing what I’d focus on later in school (not chemistry!).
Maybe it’s something we all need to reflect upon –
When we think we’re not good at something, it’s worth reflecting upon and challenging any negative input from others that we may have received and internalised as being ‘true’ or ‘fact’, when in actuality it isn’t the case. We are smart, we have potential, and we can try again.
Very importantly, we need to reflect upon the people we teach in our lives, especially vulnerable adults and younger people and children. Do we ever let our frustrations or lack of patience impact them? Maybe we risk leaving emotional and mental scars if we don’t take responsibility for how we teach – these are people after all, that are valuable and incredible.
Are there ways we can actively improve upon both learning and teaching in our own lives, or can we challenge someone in a respectful way who may be damaging a child by not teaching them in a constructive way, but trying to ‘bully’ them into learning? We all need to remember that we start not knowing very much at all, so be patient….with others and ourselves.
A lesson in being teachable:
And so, I come to the point I started with – the lesson in being teachable myself. It was a lesson of the heart. I had asked a few close friends to dinner as it’s my birthday this month. Not to celebrate my birthday as such as I don’t want to make it all about me, and don’t want my friends to feel obliged to do anything. One of these friends, a guy (and guys I guess don’t really understand girls) said they’d bring a friend along who is a mutual friend of two of our group. I don’t know this person to talk to but I know who they are. I said, ‘yeah, that’s fine’, but inwardly I kind’ve felt well I want to be with people I know and who know me and care about me on this occasion, not someone who is more of a stranger, however nice they may be. So I went home and prayed about it. I realise that I hear most from God when I am quiet before Him and take the time to really listen. I also admit that I don’t do this as much as I should, as I spend more time expressing my own thoughts. I really need to grow in this area, I know. However, I listened, and God as He does gently and lovingly challenged me with prompting me to reflect upon my motives and to think about His heart. If He were to have a banquet or a dinner or any occasion, who would He invite? As I reflected upon the life of Jesus, I realised His Arms are open to all, and He showed this on the cross. The gentle rebuke and lesson is what I needed to realise that I was in fact thinking more of myself and my ‘needs’ and comfort zone than of being Christlike, of loving in a way that honours Him – something which I’m wholly inadequate to do on my own. He walked me through this in a deeper way as He spoke to me about His Heart and His Kingdom and purposes. I am realising the need for me to humble myself and to choose to be teachable and remain teachable because the answer to the question I had about what to do or how to think about the situation does not lie in reflecting upon my own needs, but on humbling myself to receive His love and truth, that of the Perfect Teacher. If I love Him, I will do what He says, but that means yielding my hard, self-protective, self-interested heart to trust Him, to allow His love and grace to forgive and change me, and to let Him transform me more and more into His likeness, to have a heart that pleases Him.
Are we willing to be teachable, and what does this mean?
Sometimes being teachable means admitting that we have blind spots, that there are things we don’t know or understand yet, and that we need to be quiet and willing to learn from someone wiser than us. However, being teachable as my lesson from yesterday reminds me, isn’t just a matter in terms of knowledge, academic or professional learning, proficiency in a skill, talent, musical instrument, art-form, sport, or such like. It is much more to do with our character, our attitudes, our values, our respect for others, and our heart. Do we realise that there are far more noble ideals at play when we teach and / or learn? Do we realise that being teachable says so much about being human? Being teachable applies to teachers as well as students, for the process of teaching will reveal so much about a teacher’s heart and motives and character as well. Are we willing to humble ourselves and admit that we may be wrong, ignorant, ‘blind’ or hard hearted? And are we willing to yield to the Source of all sources, to learn the purest life lessons that there ever can be to be learned?
What are your thoughts and experiences? Please feel free to share with others here, or if not, reflect upon them for yourself. x
I want you to feel, no matter who you are or where you are in life, that in visiting my blog, you will find encouragement and hope.
It is the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week today in the UK…but let’s keep the discussion going.
Today, I want to encourage you by talking about living life in an increasingly digital world. As human beings, we are created for connection. We all need healthy relationships and connections, but as each and everyone of us know and have experienced to varying degrees, we live in a broken world and a fractured society, where the very relationships that are supposed to bring health and wellbeing and add something wholesome to our lives can actually be destructive, hurtful and a cause of great emotional, mental and even physical distress.
We live in an increasingly ‘connected’ world. People are constantly ‘engaged’ with some form of communication: look around you and you’re bound to see someone, even if that someone is yourself alone in a room, ‘plugged in’ to a laptop, a phone, a device of some sort, and chances are you’re not simply engaged in researching a topic. People are constantly looking for connection, validation, to be ‘liked’, for our lives to be considered worthwhile, important, ‘enough’.
And yet, the sad thing is, family members, friends, colleagues, strangers can be sitting side by side, seemingly ‘communicating’ with somebody online, and yet ignoring the real life human interaction available to them, while scrolling through pictures of other people’s filtered lives and feeling none the better for it.
I think it was Gretchen Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ who said that technology is a good servant, but a bad master. How true! It is great to be able to communicate with friends and loved ones across the world, in other towns, and to learn new things, to grow and develop and be encouraged, and build helpful connections in our shared humanity, and link in with people of similar mindsets and interests. But our engagement with technology has its place.
I am seeking to be more aware of how I use technology in line with my core values, and one thing I feel strongly about is that I want to use my experiences to help other people.
Friend, do you not notice a disconnect in your life, when you are overly ‘connected’ online? Are you aware of what impact the constant stream of auditory and visual information is having on you and your mental health?
In any healthy relationship, boundaries are gradually established for the good of both parties. Let’s think through the boundaries we are setting with ourselves in our relationship with technology and the online world.
A good place to start is to do some soul searching, away from the computer or internet, and get in touch with what is important to you in your life, your core values, your sense of purpose, and what connection means to you.
Personally, as a Christian, before coming to know the Lord Jesus, I often felt utterly alone in the world. I’m of the ‘Millenial’ generation, and probably in the last age group to remember growing up without technology. Some kids in secondary / high school had phones, but all the phones were capable of was phone calls and texts, and it was only a few people who had them. As a teenager, I wanted to question and swim against the tide of society – I never wanted to go out and get drunk or mindlessly do things many peers wanted to do – I wanted to find God, to be spiritual, to be kind to nature, to become a writer, to travel, to find my purpose on a deep level and to put something valuable into the world, to make a change, to advocate for human rights, and animal rights….possibly as many teenagers in one way or another still do. But I was resistant to technology, and how it seemed to be ‘creeping up’ on society, yes, it was good to use the internet on my parent’s home desktop PC, but I refused to get a mobile phone until I literally was compelled to by my mother when I was aged 20, and even then I got an old school basic model that probably now belongs in a museum, and all it was capable of doing was calls and texts….it was really more for my mother’s peace of mind than something I desired. I floated my way walking in parks and near rivers near my beautiful university, studying English Literature, Politics, Gender Studies, Human Rights, International Development, and longing, dreaming of being a writer, and pouring out my heart and thoughts through the written world – ‘old school’ style using actual pen and paper 🙂
Yet despite my daydreaming, my heart was broken, and I was a fragile, fractured little bird who had been tossed by tempest and not comforted. My inner pain was great and unseen to the world, and before knowing The Lord Jesus I felt deeply alone inside despite having people around me. I do think however we were more ‘connected’ growing up without obsessing with our phones and having them only as a means of communication to let people know where we were or for emergencies. Since becoming a Christian, I have despite painful years of healing and various challenges, and sometimes spells of loneliness, never actually been Alone, and never felt alone in the same way as I once did. I believe the deepest need of the human soul is love and connection – with the One Who Created us. Yet, I digress, this is not a sermon, and is not just for believers, it is a post for everyone.
What I want you to be aware of is *why* you are seeking connection from technology, and that you need to establish boundaries with it. There was a time when I realised I needed to set boundaries for the sake of my mental and emotional wellbeing because I was encountering several posts from friends about their relationships, marriages and babies, or even travel and other significant life events….and it was getting me down….feelings that were there already were exacerbated by the ‘comparison trap’ …. I have no doubt that you also face this in your online experience even if the things you are drawn to compare with are different from those I mentioned….maybe they include body image, health, fitness, life goals and such like.
So get to know yourself, your values, how your use of technology either lines up with them or not, and what your personal mental health struggles might be. Set some boundaries so that you already have in mind how using technology will be a positive and healthy experience to you and don’t like we all too often do, just get drawn into the next click or ‘conversation’ / debate.
2. Strike a Balance
While there can be many benefits to our mental health in using technology – for there is a whole world out there where we can find support, information, shared experiences, helpful resources, friendships, inspiration, new opportunities, passions and projects – there can also be many ways in which engaging with technology can cause us mental and emotional distress and can cause us to disengage with real life and human connections, and even find ourselves in a disconnect with ourselves.
Try to use technology purposefully and know what your purpose is before you ‘power up’ as it were. That will give you a sense of satisfaction and you will have more control over the effects on your mental health if you do. Know when it is time to switch off, and to connect in the analogue world. Find out how it feels to walk in the rain, or barefoot through the grass…without feeling the need to document it or share it with anyone else, unless perhaps the someone else is someone you are connecting with in that moment and shared experience. Walk outside and experience the fresh and vibrant colours and life and sounds around you – have a time and space for capturing that whether on film or photo, but then also make time to leave those things at home, or in your pocket, and simply LIVE IT. It will be so good for your soul, your mental health and your emotional wellbeing and sense of connection with your own life. Too often we feel rushed and hurried and bombarded with information, that we can be left feeling lonely, isolated and as if we are watching our lives go by rather than living them, when we face this disconnect. Real life relationships are where real connection is found, even if that relationship is a solitary one with yourself thinking, reading, or reaching out to God in prayer. Relationships take time, work, attention and commitment, so put the phone down and realise that what is before you is so precious, and not everyone needs to know every detail of what is sacred to you. Don’t let your real life relationships and your mental health crumble because of being overly ‘connected’ or merely plugged in to the online world. Savour what it is to be human, to be present in the moment and to be with the people you love, or build upon the relationships you find challenging without the help of a screen to do so all the time.
3. When you are online, seek out the positive
Your mental wellbeing *can* benefit from your online connections. Hopefully someone somewhere might have benefitted from reading this post. I do hope so. I see other people like me who have gone through various challenges to their mental wellbeing, who use their online presence to reach out to and connect with other people, and who use their experiences and what they have learned to help others who might be facing similar challenges in life. You have a wealth of experience at your fingertips, and in your heart. Seek to benefit from positive role models, and add something positive to help someone else too. Being purposeful and thoughtful in our use of technology is sure to help our mental health as well as setting boundaries and knowing when to take a break.