Pain may have marked and marred your life for a long time. It may have cut so deep into your soul that it crippled you and in a way defined you for a very long time. Pain can run very deep especially if we’ve experienced it in childhood during formative and sensitive years. What if your soul has been deeply wounded and your mind shackled, but you’ve pressed on, survived trauma, pushed through and found healing?
Has pain and what happened to you or what you experienced become so fundamental to how you think of yourself and your life that even if you have healed from much of it you find it difficult to think of yourself in a new way or give yourself permission to move on from it?
It can be a challenge to our thinking to allow ourselves to live in the new found freedom we’ve craved for so long. I have been through years of deep inner pain, and yet now I am stepping into a new freedom and inner healing as the balm of God’s healing love and Holy Spirit heals and renews me from the inside out. Yet there are reminders of the things that I went through. But I have a new identity. I no longer need to be defined or crippled by pain or fear. It has been something I’ve spent many many years having to work through and overcome, but now what?
We can begin to use our pain to help others, but what about getting to the stage of completely letting go? I believe those deep soul wounds can only be fully healed by Jesus, even though on our own we can make progress, it doesn’t go to the deepest part of us.
What about living in transformation from victim to victor? Overcome to overcomer? This can take time and shifting our mindset and the things we tell ourselves daily and getting stronger.
I think I’m ready to move forwards, those deep wounds were a pivotal part of my life story and journey, ones that at the time I would never have wanted to go through or experience because they cut so deep, but Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is far, far greater than that, and God can use the painful things in our life for greater good if we let Him, even if that seems to take a lifetime.
Have you gone through a transformative life experience that was marked by pain and suffering and brokenness? Have you worked hard to heal? Can you give yourself permission to let go and move forwards, using what happened to you to propel you into a brighter future where you can walk in freedom and help other people? Sometimes we go back and forth on these psychological bridges, sometimes we heal a bit and march forwards and then have to slow down and do some more deep healing. But perhaps there comes a time when we can say, that was then and this is now, and now is completely NEW. Now that is a psychological bridge worth crossing over once the raw emotions have healed.
Are you in a place where you can move forwards, even if that doesn’t mean a change in circumstances but just a change within yourself? What’s stopping you? Life is full of transitions, and thankfully, healing can be part of that no matter what has gone before. Give yourself permission to live, to thrive, or to do the hard and painful work of getting there, if need be.
I think of the glory of the Cross, the agonising suffering that Jesus Christ went through for me, and the Glory that He Is in now. If my life is hidden with Christ in God, then surely I can embrace the new, because He has won the victory for me, and His Touch brings the deep healing my soul needs, even if He unravels us from that hurt and pain over time, if we let Him, He will make us free! ❤ Praise be to God. I can be free because of what He did and does for me. By His wounds we are healed. Ask Him, receive from Him, He won’t let you down, even if it is tough to start with, He will see you through.
I wrote previously about being in different seasons of life. For a long time I had felt that I was in a season marked by suffering, then by recovery, and then overcoming (including overcoming anxiety).
Something has changed. Within me. It is almost as if the fear and anxiety has been ‘switched off’, overnight.
I had been calling out to God, I think perhaps a few months ago. Certain things felt difficult to manage within myself, some things felt like they were causing anxiety and doubt. I had very profound experiences when I first encountered Christ, but those few months ago I felt distant, dry, and I didn’t want to just be ‘going through the motions’ when I know His Love Is real, tangible, something I have profoundly experienced before.
I cried out to Him and He has answered me. I have been experiencing once again Pure Comfort, Love, His Peaceful Presence, within me and around me as I draw near to Him especially in prayer.
He has been communicating in different ways, showing me things that He has also similarly shown to a Christian friend. I am certain the ‘flow’ of these recent ‘coincidences’ are not coincidences.
Something within has changed, and there is a shift in gears, in perspective and a Peace that I had struggled to find for a long time as I recovered from and wrestled with various things I had gone through.
I am trusting this change is not a momentary one, but something deeper, longer lasting. I know my mindset may change in more gradual ways perhaps, as I step more fully into this Reality of who I truly am.
I love how God Is always reaching out to us, teaching us, and sometimes those breakthroughs are so gentle yet profound. When we stumble, those who Know Jesus as the Reality that He Is, His real and tangible Presence….He will still be leading us, helping us, as The Good Shepherd, The Living God.
In this world of trouble, He speaks Peace. The Peace that comes from being Forgiven, Cleansed, made New inside. Peace, real tangible Peace in Christ, through His Blood shed at the Cross. x
Today let us each learn to step out, however small that step may be, into something New.
Sometimes in life we are very aware of the nature of the ‘season’ we are in. It may, for example, be one of searching for answers, for Truth. It may be one of suffering, in health or circumstances or at the hands of others. It may be one of deep emotional, psychological, physical or mental pain. It may be one of distress such as when a child is bullied and ends up hating themselves. It may be one of survival. It may be one of recovery. It may be one of yearning. It may be one of gain or loss. It may be a season of self discovery, of discovering our gifts or talents, our true identity, it may be one of stepping out in faith or adventure, of friendship, of new beginnings, of new people in our lives. It may be one of struggling against all the odds, of survival, of trauma, of recovery, of post-traumatic growth, of becoming established. It may be one of waiting. It may be one of peace.
Seldom do people spend their entire lives in a season characterised by just one of these elements. Many of us go through suffering or pain. I certainly have. And yet, many of us go on to find healing. Many stay in the process of ‘recovery’ and never quite ‘shift gears’ to embrace something more whole, new or strong and purposeful.
I began this blog at a time of ‘recovery’ from many things that had crushed my heart and soul over many years. They may be different to the things in life you have suffered from, but cumulatively, the things I experienced over time all built up and reached somewhat of a ‘bursting point’ when the pain had to overflow and spill out in tears and in seeking out help and healing. It was a tough time, but it also signified a shifting of gears from in a sense surviving difficult feelings and thoughts and bottling them up to processing them in a form of reliving difficult things from in particular childhood bullying and spiritual attacks and all the various heart hurts and disappointments of going through life in this world in a kind of post-traumatic growth.
Well, this blog began as a shifting of gears in a sense from being someone needing help to seeking to help others by using this platform to write, to share, to help. Now I believe I am shifting gears again, and perhaps some of you are too.
I think the pandemic, the coronavirus and various lockdowns have changed us in many ways. I’ve been able to help other people by writing about tools and techniques to overcome anxiety, to help people with depression and to share faith. I have come to a place of healing as well and from crying out to God, I am more aware of His tangible Presence and Peace and I believe He Is building me up on the inside to trust Him, to take things as they come, and to look forwards and upward to the Sure Hope I have in Christ beyond this earth and body. Many people will be re-evaluating their lives, how they spend their time, what is important. People will be exploring what they think about life and death and after death. Some people take comfort in the idea that there may not be anything after this. I take comfort for myself in the Truth I have experienced that those in Christ Jesus have a glorious future to look forward to. If you’re not sure, now is the time to repent and to call upon His Name and know God’s indescribable Love that Is so Comforting, Peaceful, Pure, Real and True…not religion, but Real Love. I believe Jesus Christ Is the only Way.
I think those who know and love Him are being called to shift gears too. To allow Him to heal us, to build us up, to set us free, and to grow strong in that Love relationship which is quite real. So that we can use our gifts to reach out, even if by way of a computer screen, to help others. To know the spiritual gifts we have in prayer and intercession and encouraging others and share the Truth of Jesus Christ as we learn to know Him better, not as someone we’ve merely read about, but to experience Him for ourselves, and walk in that. Little by little, day by day.
Perhaps this is a season for you to shift gears too. Perhaps you like me have also spent many years of suffering whether inwardly with pain or circumstances, of battling to get strong, and maybe now is your time to *be* strong and to step out and in that. If you are in Christ Jesus, you *are* a New Creation. This is a spiritual reality and you may have experienced this in various ways. Sometimes we have to ‘plod on’ in faithfulness without seeing or experiencing growth in very obvious ways, but then at other times our seasons change and we are no longer those fearful creatures shackled by chains of fear, of the past or of struggle and suffering although these are parts of life. We learn to look up, we learn to draw on that Pure Love and Sure Hope and stay connected to Him and even if our outward lives might look ‘weak or foolish’ to the world, our spiritual lives can blossom as we know His Love, rest in it, and intercede for a world that is blind and lost without Him.
Maybe you are not a believer but this is a season of shifting gears in your life. Maybe you have something to accomplish, or do or figure out. We all know, especially in these days, that time is short. Maybe that will be the nudge that helps to get us in gear and live out the rest of our lives in a new way. God bless. x
(A ‘longish’ read, but hopefully worth it, and full of inspiration and motivation!).
Any superhero, DC, Marvel, general comic book, etc fans out there?
Let me start by confessing that I don’t know a great deal about superheroes and heroines but I do know enough to know that most of them have some pretty intriguing ‘origin stories’.
Looking at the ‘good guys’ and ‘gals’, and with a little help from my friends Google, and Wikipedia 😉 let’s take a closer look at some of our well known and loved superfolk and their origin stories.
Superman: perhaps one of the most known, amiable and familiar superheroes is Superman. Wikipedia tells me that there have been several variations over time to his life story through publications, adaptations and revisions. However, the basics of his story are as follows (thanks Wiki ! 🙂 )…
“While the individual details vary, certain key elements have remained consistent in almost all retellings.
Superman is born Kal-El on the alien planet Krypton. His parents, Jor-El and Lara become aware of Krypton’s impending destruction and Jor-El begins constructing a spacecraft to carry Kal-El to Earth. During Krypton’s last moments, Jor-El places young Kal-El in the spacecraft and launches it. Jor-El and Lara die as the spacecraft barely escapes Krypton’s fate. The explosion transforms planetary debris into kryptonite, a radioactive substance that is lethal to superpowered (as by Earth’s yellow sun) Kryptonians.
Clark keeps his powers secret in order to protect his family and friends, who might be endangered by his criminal enemies. In order to use his powers to help humanity, Clark creates the alter ego of Superman. A number of elements are added to each identity to keep them distinct enough to prevent the casual observer from matching them. Superman wears a characteristic red and blue costume with a letter “S” emblem and a cape. Clark Kent takes to wearing glasses, styling his hair differently, changing his body language, significantly altering his voice, and wearing looser clothing and suits that hide his physique.
Spiderman: In Forest Hills, Queens, New York,Midtown High School student Peter Benjamin Parker is a science-whiz orphan living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. As depicted in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), he is bitten by a radioactivespider (erroneously classified as an insect in the panel) at a science exhibit and “acquires the agility and proportionate strength of an arachnid“. Along with heightened athletic abilities, Parker gains the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings. Through his native knack for science, he develops a gadget that lets him fire adhesive webbing of his own design through small, wrist-mounted barrels. Initially seeking to capitalize on his new abilities, Parker dons a costume and, as “Spider-Man”, becomes a novelty television star. However, “He blithely ignores the chance to stop a fleeing thief, [and] his indifference ironically catches up with him when the same criminal later robs and kills his Uncle Ben.” Spider-Man tracks and subdues the killer and learns, in the story’s next-to-last caption, “With great power there must also come—great responsibility!”
Wonder Woman’s origin story relates that she was sculpted from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta and was given a life to live as an Amazon, along with superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek gods. In recent years, DC changed her background with the retcon that she is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, jointly raised by her mother and her aunts Antiope and Menalippe. The character has changed in depiction over the decades, including briefly losing her powers entirely in the late 1960s; by the 1980s, artist George Perez gave her an athletic look and emphasized her Amazonian heritage. She possesses an arsenal of advanced technology, including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and, in older stories, a range of devices based on Amazon technology.
Wonder Woman’s character was created during World War II; the character in the story was initially depicted fighting Axis military forces as well as an assortment of colorful supervillains, although over time her stories came to place greater emphasis on characters, deities, and monsters from Greek mythology. Many stories depicted Wonder Woman rescuing herself from bondage, which defeated the “damsels in distress” trope that was common in comics during the 1940s.
What’s your super powers and identity?
Ok, so what has the identity and origin stories of comic characters and superheroes and heroines got to do with us? Good question, and I think exploring the answer is a bit of a longer term ‘project’ for me psychologically.
But for the time being, let me share some thoughts and points to ponder.
I’m sure we all want to be people that we can be proud of, people who make a difference in the world during our perhaps fleeting time on earth. People who as children and teenagers once had dreams of accomplishing great things, even using those dreams as perhaps a form of ‘escapism’ of the hard realities of growing up. However, as we have grown up (and I presume most of us are in the category of technically being adults, even if we don’t always know what that means! 🙂 ), it’s likely that we have taken a few bumps and bruises through our journey in life, and so maybe we’ve let go of those dreams and high ideals.
Thinking of the above point, do you ever find yourself merely ‘trudging along’ from one day to the next? Have your dreams and ideals been swamped by the cares of this world, and simply making it through? Are you simply trying to put one foot in front of another? Have you given up hope of making any significant difference? Does it matter?
Does it matter? Let’s start with that. I guess you and I are deciding that every moment of every day in the precious lives we live. We live much of the time taking our lives for granted, even though we know that time on this earth is limited. As a Christian, I have the sure and steadfast hope of an eternity with Jesus Christ, but I don’t have ‘forever’ on this earth. It’s something we don’t like to think about. Surely it should be a bit of a ‘wake up call’ though, shouldn’t it? Surely knowing this, we should seek to live in a way that matters, for ourselves, those around us and maybe even future generations. Wouldn’t that be to walk in wisdom, redeeming the time?
I’d like to think that all of us, however long we’ve been blessed to live, would say yes it does matter. But how do we make it count? We would do well to take time and to take stock of what matters, and perhaps our answers will all differ, but at the core, what kind of legacy do you want to be leaving for the future, and for right now, what kind of a life do you want to be living? So, maybe we’ve had to let go of some dreams and ideals. Maybe none among us here will win the Nobel Peace Prize (although, don’t rule it out for yourselves 🙂 ), we might not walk on the moon, we might not set up orphanages across the world and help suffering children by starting up a global humanitarian organisation, and we might not solve the hunger crisis, or the problem of homelessness, malnutrition, child neglect, climate change or poor health and inequalities. Maybe we won’t write the next great music score, or be a world class musician, a missionary taking the Gospel to far off lands, a sports person, novelist, film maker, discoverer, break boundaries in the science and arts and in communication. Maybe we won’t be the person to come up with the invention that changes the world for good. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t change the world for good in our own way. Can’t we all be ‘superheroes’ in our own spheres of influence?
So I’ve listed a lot of things that most of us probably won’t be or do (although, like I said, don’t rule it out if any of those are your dreams, work hard and use your talents for good). However, I’m not a person to leave anyone with a list of ‘can’t do’s’. Here are some of the things we perhaps can do, and doing them together we will make much more of an impact for good in the world. So the Nobel Peace Prize is kind of out of the picture, but can’t we all work for Peace, in our own lives and minds, our families, friendships, workplaces, neighbourhoods, communities, and our online sphere of influence? When so many people in the world are struggling or tearing each other down, can’t we be the ambassadors of peace in our realms of influence?
Is walking on the moon a bit of a leap too far for us now? Can’t we help someone else to fulfil their dreams? Can’t we teach the children in our lives, whether or not they are our own, to reach for the moon and the stars, and to dream big dreams? And can’t we be there to help, encourage and equip them to reach those dreams so that they become achievable goals?
What of the other things listed? Maybe we can’t do any of those lofty things either (or maybe they are actually achievable for some of us), but what can we do? Could we give to charities and humanitarian organisations that set up orphanages and help suffering children? Could we be a source of support to a suffering or vulnerable child in our sphere of influence? Could we work as a community to provide outlets and activities for children and young people to help them grow up in healthier ways which might actually keep them from otherwise experiencing unnecessary suffering? Could we give out food to homeless people, donate our time, money or resources to a soup kitchen or homeless charity during Christmas, or any other time of the year for that matter? Are we in the position to advocate for someone, take them in, or provide support in some other way, however small? Could we give someone a smile, treat them like a person, give them a cup of coffee instead of walking by? Maybe we can make more responsible choices with regards to the environment, and help others to do likewise, or maybe we can write to companies to take action, or come together as communities to think about how we can do things better, and listen to the children whose lives it will most affect. Can we help to guide people and also ourselves implement healthier life choices? Can we be involved in groups to help address the inequalities in our worlds? Can we share the gospel with the people in our lives, or reach out to ‘strangers’ and live in a way that is loving, kind and points people to Jesus? Can we share our musical gifts and talents with others to bring joy and a sense of community, or can we learn or teach an instrument, write a song, make an uplifting video on our phones, use art to bring hope and comfort and joy to ourselves and others, write that one book (or more! 🙂 ), write the blog that helps to encourage and inspire others, even if it reaches one person and not one million? We may not invent breakthroughs in science, arts, technology and communication, but we can study to understand and respect the world we live in, we can explore and share our gifts of creativity, we can learn to use technology for good and not for harm, and we can seek to breakthrough communication barriers and communicate with more love, respect and kindness with the people in our own lives, and help others to do the same.
Sounds nice, but I’m just ‘getting by’….
Now that we’ve hopefully reignited some of that ‘spark’ of imagination and the desire to do something worthwhile in our lives, recognising that the smallest of things are important and special too and can change one life at a time, what about the ‘nitty gritty’ reality of it all?
It sounds great, but what if you’re just getting by? What if there are still too many ‘can’t do’s’ in your life?
What if even having broken it down to these less lofty heights, you feel like these smaller things are still way out of your grasp, you feel like a failure, and life has knocked you down so many times or hurt you so deeply that you feel like you can’t even find the strength to bother enough, to care, or to pick yourself up again?
I hear you. I feel it. I’ve been there. That feeling that you just can’t make it through another moment, let alone another day. That feeling that life is too painful to bear anymore, and that maybe, just maybe if you could slip away….
But wait. Stop. Please stop and listen if you feel like that. That is not meant to be the end of your story. It’s a hard, poignant and challenging, tough part of your journey, and maybe it ‘defines’ you more than you’d like it to, but it is by no means the end. Believe me. I’ve been there. You can’t see a hope and a future, but there is one.
Back to our Superheroes:
Let’s think once more about our superheroes. At this point they’re ‘saving the world’, or at least within their sphere of influence they are. They’re doing those great things some of which include the ones on your list (you have a list right? you are a world changer after all! 🙂 ). But they didn’t start out that way. They started out as lumps of clay, of awkward teenagers who were bitten by radio active spiders, as ‘aliens’ in a sense, strangers on earth, orphans taken in, with superpowers, but also with arch enemies, and a fear of kryptonite.
The point is, they had to go through something, and maybe you did / do too. They were born with potential, but they had to go through a whole bunch of stuff before they could make a real difference, they had to learn some tough lessons, fight off some ‘dastardly’ villains, grapple with their identities, realise that they’re different somehow, and figure out what to do with their strength, how to use it for good.
Maybe your ‘origin story’ sucks.
Sorry for putting it bluntly, but maybe you’ve had a pretty tough and awful start to life. Maybe reading this you are struggling with the reality of your life as a backdrop against which all these shiny and lofty dreams and ideals are presented. Maybe you’ve suffered abuse, ill health, trauma, poverty, homelessness, grief, anorexia, addiction, fear and anxiety, depression, neglect. Maybe you’re thinking, nice fairy tale, comic book story, but it’s not real life, and it’s not for you. But it is.
Who do you know, have read about or seen in a documentary inspires you? There will absolutely definitely be someone who you can find out about who has gone through some rubbish in life that has turned it around and are being ‘superheroes’ in their own spheres of influence. Does anyone come to mind for you? Maybe you just haven’t found them yet.
For me, I can reel off a few names of people that inspire me and motivate me and help me find courage. If you haven’t already heard of them and their stories, I encourage you to do a bit of searching and find out a bit more about them. Katie Piper, Nick Vujicic, Lizzie Velazquez, Malala Yousafzai. These are all young or fairly young people that are still alive today and still making a difference with their lives, impacting many other people for good, even though they have gone through some really difficult experiences and encountered evil. They have been courageous and you can too. Not only them, but if you look through the history books, there have been so many people whose lives we can take inspiration from. I could come up with lists of my own, but I’d rather leave that to you to ponder, and even better if you could share who inspires you in the comments then you’ve made a good start today with reaching out and inspiring others, including me.
So for many of us, parts of our ‘origin stories’ have been tough, things we feel have hurt us, scarred us, all but defeated us, held us back and are stopping us from being the people we dreamed of being in this world.
But your beginning is not your ending, dear friends. Finishing well does not depend on having a good start. Sure, it would have been easier if we’d had an easier time of it, but there are things we were powerless to change, and things that we have in our power now to change for the better. We can recover, heal, get strong, and make a difference. We can surprise ourselves with the difference we can make in our lives. What if the difference you can make is comforting someone else who is going through what you went through, with a letter, a text, a kind word, a hug, some practical support, or even crying with them, getting through it together? That is no small or insignificant thing. Some of the most pivotal moments of our lives, and the most life changing moments for ourselves and others are moments like that. That is not out of your grasp is it, dear one?
Your origin story is not your destiny. It is part of a far bigger picture. How we think of those dark or difficult parts of our lives hugely impacts how we go forwards and what we do and become. Do we see those things as life-long limitations? Or can we survive? Can we dare to thrive? Can we keep making small changes everyday until our whole lives are transformed?
I remember sitting in an appointment, talking to my trauma psychologist, crying to him because I felt so weak and had gone through so much effort to try to overcome the emotional, psychological and physical effects of complex trauma in childhood, mainly through bullying, verbal abuse, physical attacks by peers, neglect by teachers, loneliness, isolation, intense and crippling fear, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, etc, etc.
I felt like a bit of a ‘failure’ because after so many years I was struggling to make it through each day, when there were people like Katie Piper who went through so many difficult things, an acid attack, immense physical and psychological trauma, wanting to die, seeing no hope, but going through rehabilitation, recovery to now having her own charities to help burns victims, writing books, speaking up for other people in public platforms, having a family and making a difference in the world. And there was I sitting crying my eyes out and not making much of a difference.
The strange thing was that with absolute sincerity my trauma psychologist told me that I was an inspiration, he couldn’t imagine doing as well as I had if it had been him, he genuinely was in admiration of my perseverance, tenacity, determination, and the fact I had aced my studies, was holding down a full time job, had two first class degrees, but there was I sitting feeling broken and beaten down and like I wasn’t making any difference.
Maybe you know all too well what that feels like. But it’s not the end of the road for you. Just think how much we can do with applying the same determination we have had to into ‘surviving’ if we can continue and put that into thriving. You are making a difference, simply by being you, and you are a superhero, you may just not feel like it right now with where you are in your life’s journey, but it’s not the end for you, not yet, and you have some choices to make.
I hope you’ve found some hope or inspiration from my experiences and my ramblings. 🙂 I’d like to end this post by saying how important it is to consider how you think about yourself. You are not your failures, and you are not the things that happened to you. You are amazing, an original, one of a kind, valuable, a world changer.
I am also on a journey of discovery, but I’d like to end this post with speaking about my true source of hope and identity. Jesus Christ is The One Who has given me ‘new birth’, a new identity, a sure and solid foundation, spiritual blessings in Christ, heavenly armour, and His Strength to enable me to be ‘more than a conqueror’ in Christ. His death and resurrection means that no matter what life has thrown at me, He can and in His time will heal me of it, turn it around for His glory, my good and the good of other people. I owe all of my victories to Him. I hope you find all that you can be in Him, too.
If you’ve been following along with me as I reflect upon my personal retreat as it happens, then you will most likely have noticed a change to the ‘series’ title from ‘Notes from a Writer on Retreat’ to ‘Retreat Reflections’.
I suppose that part of the beauty of time set aside to be creative like this is that it often organically moves beyond definition. I have had personal retreats before, and as in my blog post from a few days ago about preparing your own personal retreat, these at times have varied in their central focus or purpose. Previously, I had a ‘staycation’ which was really about rest, relaxation, exploring my surroundings, taking care of myself, general creativity, and most importantly to me, my relationship with God.
I also once had 9 days in total, including weekends, set aside specifically for writing my novel and I was able to make progress and inhabit that creative time and space for writing. I have taken time to be still in nature, and connect with God and to seek healing and meaning to certain life experiences, as well as for the purpose of rest and relaxation. Last year, I encouraged a friend to join me on retreat as we are both very creative people, both fairly quiet and reflective in nature, and also both sisters in Christ, so we had a lot of fun exploring a variety of arts, crafts, inspiring readings, picnics in the park, a musical event all of which was underpinned by the focus of exploring and strengthening our identity in Christ and as Christian women.
For this retreat, I really wanted to set aside time specifically to write, to work on my novel, to work on a photography project I have started, and to have the chance to reflect, work through some things, rest, relax, be strengthened and more connected with what is important to me in life, so that when the time comes to ‘re-join the world’ in a couple of days, I will feel refreshed, satisfied creatively and with a better perspective going forwards.
I am so pleased and thankful that I set a goal to write at least 3,500 words in the first day, and I feel that this discipline really enabled me to re-engage with my novel, press through to discover certain thought processes and meanings to me, and to gain some forward momentum. As I said previously, I exceeded this target and wrote 3,720 words today. And despite a bit of struggle mid-way through, I am so glad I did.
There was a real sense of satisfaction and rest afterwards, and I was able to put the novel writing away for the evening, and enjoy a pleasant stroll by the riverside near my home. I felt reconnected by being in the gentle sun, and feeling a fresh breeze around me, and gaining a sense of God’s unfolding purpose in my life, which also came through the writing process in discovering new ways of looking at things. I enjoyed watching the sun glisten on the water, feeling the breeze upon my skin, and taking some photos, as well as admiring a swan that was nesting, in a bundle of twigs, awaiting the time for her ‘babies’ to come. A lovely older lady came to chat with me having noticed that I was admiring the swan, as she had come to feed it, and a male swan nearby, with some bread. We chatted, enjoyed the life before us, and then moved on and went our separate ways, and the gentle ebb and flow of life continued on.
I have a sense of rest this evening, having worked hard earlier and accomplished what I set out to do for that day. I am growing in the sense of awareness of myself in this time, and the importance of letting me settle in and simply ‘be’ and inhabit the creative space as well as take time to process certain thoughts and emotions and to grow stronger and to heal. There is a line from Max Ehrman’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ that advises us to ‘enjoy our achievements as well as our plans’. This also reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, where we are told that ‘to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven’. Writing helps us to realise this, but so too does rest.
As satisfied as I am to have given myself writing goals today, I think I am in the process of deciding not to apply the same approach tomorrow, for there is a time and a season to each day, and while today’s purpose was to work, to re-engage, to accomplish, to create, I think moving forwards, the ‘purpose’ is to slow down, to savour, to inhabit the creative moments organically as they happen and as I engage with my solitude, in the Presence of my Creator, to find them, and to really truly enjoy the process. I can tend to lose focus, so I will need some sort of accountability with myself, but I think that probably won’t be in terms of word count or time spent writing as much as to just sit and write, and to connect deeply with the process and the unfolding lessons I too am learning through the developing narrative, which are life lessons that have been forming within me for some time, that I am slowly beginning to reflect upon.
When I think of going back to work, I am aware that there are different seasons, even between and within our days and short spans of time. Knowing that this time and space is sacred and limited before returning to my usual work schedule, which has many benefits to it in and of itself, just not so much creatively, gives me a desire to really inhabit this creative space, even if that means thinking and resting rather than producing something, for creativity is of the heart and soul and mind, and often our stories are being written within us as we journey through our lives, before we even write a word.
So tonight and tomorrow I will slow down, enjoy the solitude, and allow myself to connect, with God and with myself, within this quiet space and time, which in itself is a rare and precious gift and blessing, and will let tomorrow unfold organically and uniquely just as it should. I do want to accomplish certain things, so I will keep in mind a looser ‘goal’ simply to do and to engage with writing and with my photography project, but without any pressure, or particular expectations, and allow myself to live authentically and grow through it.
One last thing I have reflected upon that I’d like to mention before I conclude this post is the beauty of time and space that we so often seem to have ‘snatched’ from us in the busy-ness of every day life, of other people’s expectations and demands, and of even simply being around people so much, whether that be from work, friends, family, or strangers. I have tried to work into my daily life ‘mini retreats’ whether that be a walk in the park at lunchtime, slowly enjoying a hot cup of tea, or reading one of your blog posts during my lunchbreak at work. Unfortunately, however, I am only afforded ‘snippets’ of time to do such things in the ordinary busy day to day of my life, ‘as it happens to be’. Tonight, however, I am going to take my time, to savour one or more of your blog posts, to listen and hear from the person writing, who I have never met, but for some reason who I have come in contact with through this medium, and have been granted the privilege of a glimpse and an insight into your unique world, mind and life. I apologise that I rarely have the time and space to truly savour and engage my mind and heart with from other people’s blog posts – probably like a lot of us, I am able to ponder things for a few moments before having to ‘snap back’ into the real world, most likely the office work I have to do, or the tasks I have to do at home after a day at work. Perhaps today, it will be one of your blog posts I will read…and if so, I’d like to thank you for it. I will take the time to honour and engage with the insights you have allowed to traverse through space and time and come into my world. Goodnight for now, I hope that you find stillness to enjoy the space and moments you are living in right now.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18a… Question:
Are you struggling to move forwards in your life? Perhaps you have a certain challenge or difficulty that you are facing, or maybe things are well with you but you find that you are just drifting along from moment to moment, day to day, with an underlying feeling that you are not really living your best life, and that you are not meeting your potential.
When this is how we find ourselves moving through life, we need a fresh and healthy dose of Truth, perspective and vision. What is a life lived without vision? How can we go anywhere meaningful if we don’t know where we are going? Maybe we have or have had vision in certain areas of our lives but we are getting bogged down with the challenges and realities of the struggles we face on the journey and need a refreshing.
If you find yourself nodding along or quietly acquiescing to these statements, then you are in good company. Many reading this, and the one writing this are in the same metaphorical boat. So, as I seek to encourage you, I also seek to encourage myself, and as I seek to remind myself of the importance of vision in my life I also seek to hopefully provide some words of refreshing, direction and hope for you, my dear readers, as you join me on this journey.
1. Vision: What is vision?
This can be viewed from the vast, broad perspective of our whole life, as well as narrowed down to focus on the more specific. I believe we desperately need both. For me, what truly changed my life is ordering my steps in the Word of God. I have found that over time chaos has given way to calm, hopelessness to hope, helplessness to courage and strength, and aimlessness to vision. Ultimately for myself, the Vision for my entire life temporally here on earth, and for all eternity, is that of a Living Person ~ Jesus Christ ~ my Saviour, Lord, Healer, Best Friend, and Inspiration. My anchor and comfort in every storm. I didn’t always know Him and instead of vision there was a profound sense of despair and lostness. Jesus Christ, the One True and Living God, He Is my Vision. And He gives sight to the blind, when spiritually we have no means to see clearly by ourselves. He Is Light in our darkness, and the entrance of God’s Word gives us Light and understanding.
And yet, I also have smaller, specific ‘visions’ or goals for my life. Without these, and without ordering these according to the Truth of God’s Word, I find that I so easily get overwhelmed by life and unable to properly handle things or look forwards with hope. I end up ruminating on the past or trying to ‘solve’ my own mental problems with little success. The Truth cuts through all of this, and I continue to learn to wield this mighty ‘sword’.
Currently, I find myself considering and having to remind myself to have vision in certain areas of my life:
My identity, a vision of who I truly am, my value and worth as a person, and my perspective of challenging negative things that people either said or did to me (childhood bullying), and to grow in the freedom to live out my true identity as a valuable created being, imbued with value and worth from my Creator.
A vision of recovery in my journey to overcome complex post traumatic stress, and to find healing emotionally, mentally, physically and relationally.
A vision of my goals in keeping connected with family and friends, of helping other people, of taking care of myself, and in accomplishing certain things in writinga book, bloggingand making the most of my hobbies, gifts and talents, including for the good of others which include some future plans and learning new skills, health andwellbeing, and work .
These are just a few among many, but without writing them down for myself, planning specific steps to take and being intentional about them, they will just stay buzzing around in my head without really purposefully going anywhere. What about you? What are you seeking to find, do, be or accomplish in your life just now?
Now, this is the hard part, and it is why we often need regular reminders of our bigger goal or vision and why this is so important to us and integral to what we value in life. Patience is particularly hard when it involves things beyond our control, or when there is no straightforward A + B formula or a set timescale by which we can arrive at where we want to be or how we want to feel. This might involve areas of our life such as relationships as other people are complex, unique and often unpredictable beings just as we are. It might involve a situation in which we rely on someone or something else to work out, we might be waiting for a part in a process of ‘red tape’ or bureaucracy that is slowing us down from moving forwards, it might involve the decision on the part of someone else, or it might be the case that we have been trying for something that just doesn’t seem to be ‘working out’ just now.
For me, at the moment, I find that I need to revive my vision and hope, and have patience in the process of healing and recovery from complex post traumatic stress, and the need to be ‘set free’ spiritually from the heaviness and hurt. It takes patience with myself, as I can see that there might be people that I’d like to connect with, or get to know, but my ‘injuries’ are holding me back or making it difficult to smoothly move forwards in life, and this is frustrating, provokes anxiety and self doubt, and just doesn’t feel all that great to be honest. So while I am writing this for you, I’m also writing it as a reminder for me to look above and beyond the struggles and challenges of the journey to reminding myself of the greater vision and that there may be glitches and bumps along the way that are not so comfortable, there may be things that are completely out of our hands, the positive of which is that this can if we let it drive us to deeper faith, hope, love and dependence on our Creator. And yet, there are certain tools and helps in our own hands that we need to be disciplined enough to use. The A + B = desired result may not be what is happening here, and for some the growth and lessons are deeper and more painful as they may involve a hope being fulfilled in time, or they may involve a painful process of change, growth and a purification of our characters. They may involve loss and grief, sadly. I think of my friends who are struggling with infertility, and it is a reminder to that as we pursue our goals in life, we also need to patiently and sincerely pursue extending compassion and kindness for others and ourselves in the process, or perhaps as being even more important than what we initially set out to obtain.
For me, although there is no straightforward A+B formula or a smooth path for living free, as with all of us there are certain things that I can do and that are my responsibility to do in the process. Whether this be focusing on my relationship with God, nurturing my true identity, refusing to ruminate or let painful past memories and effects overtake me, finding coping mechanisms, grounding techniques and things to do to keep me focussed on the present, making time to nurture friendships, invest time and love into the gifts and talents I’ve been given, continue to work on eating, sleeping, maintaining a routine and exercising for the sake of improving my well being – these are all things that I can remind myself of when the difficulties begin to obscure the hope of the vision. Maybe you can ask yourself today both what is your vision, and what is in your power to do just now, and also are you living by faith, or are you giving in to feelings and false beliefs of hopelessness?
3. Promise: Hold on friends, hold on with hope, faith, love, trust and perseverance. I don’t know what the promise is for your life, but I know that none of us are here by accident, or mistake or happenstance. Your life is beautifully valuable, precious, intentioned and unique. Remember that today, and hold fast to the promise, the Truth that is so freely available to us (please comment below if you want to ask any questions on this and finding guidance in the life-changing promises of the Bible), as you do so much more in your life and in your day than merely drifting along, coping or surviving.
You were made for so much more, my friend. And it is a promise that you should live it…not in your strength, but by amazing grace if you reach out to take a hold of the One Who offers eternal hope and promise to you – Jesus Christ.
Be blessed, dear ones. Even if you don’t believe or have widely different views on things, then I’d still love to hear from you, and welcome your comments and connection. xx (c).