Have you ever looked at the news and felt overwhelmed by what is happening in the world? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what is going on in your own life, and in the lives of those around you? Have you ever wanted to make a change, an impact in people’s lives but just not known where to start?
I’m sure we all feel like that from time to time. Some of us feel it very often. At times many difficult things converge and we can’t see past them. We might be having a challenging time personally as well as dealing with tough issues in our jobs. At one point I was working in the field of researching violence against women, and at the same time facing certain challenges, and I would feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of news and negativity and the state of the world. Some people term this compassion fatigue, or for those working to help other people, ‘vicarious trauma’.
Life can get heavy sometimes, but do we just throw our hands up in the air and give up? Or do we reach our hands up for help and strength from the True Source of help and of grace and Love?
Many people in this world want to make a positive difference. We face our own injustices and that creates a ‘fire in our belly’ to want to overcome them and then to reach out and help others who are suffering. But sometimes it can all get too much. I’m amazed by the people who tirelessly campaign to help other people, by doctors, nurses, emergency service workers and many others in vocations that serve to help others for the greater good, oftentimes at great risk to their own lives and safety. Many people sacrifice a lot to help others.
Yet what of us living comparatively less challenging lives in terms of what we do day in and day out and the risk we face to help others? What of those of us who still face the feelings of overwhelm in a broken world gone wrong, and in desperate need of Grace and Redemption? Do we just give up, do we allow ourselves to get exhausted, to think it’s all too big a problem so what’s the point of trying anymore?
The point of trying is what is in front of you.
Who is in front of you.
Jesus Christ said that ‘What you do for the least of these….you do for Me’.
Do you realise how valuable that person in front of you is? How valuable you are? You may not be able to solve the problems of the world, you may not be able to be a humanitarian on the front lines of changing this generation at great cost to yourself. You may be an extraordinary person in an ordinary seeming life, just like most of the rest of us. But you are extraordinary. And so am I. We all have this stamp of humanity in us and we all are made to be vessels of Love in a dark and hurting world (and this Love is of God, in Christ Jesus, Who if we let Him in will truly set us free).
Don’t give up. Don’t get so blindsided by the bigger picture that you fail to see the tapestry being woven right in front of you. What is in front of you matters. It may seem like a small offering in the grand scheme of things, but it matters.
So next time you feel overwhelmed or like there’s nothing much you can do to make a change, think of how truly important that one conversation is. That smile. Taking the time to sit and listen to someone who is in need. Giving something to someone in need, even if it seems like a small offering. Reaching out, praying, listening, and simply being. Being with your children, your loved ones, putting down your electronic devices and giving them the attention that they are worthy of that will bless your soul also.
There is a tapestry being woven right in front of you, and you are part of that process. You can choose to create or to tear apart or to leave things unattended to, never allowing a beautiful picture to form because you failed to participate, to contribute, to try.
Don’t worry about the whole world, simply tend to what is in front of you, and you will make a difference. And while we all play our part, in the littlest of ways, we contribute to something beyond ourselves, and surely that should be a source of hope and inspiration.
We all have certain experiences in our lives that stand out in our memory. During our childhoods we are particularly sensitive to the views, opinions, words and treatment of others. How people treat us as children, what they say and do can often have a profound impact upon us, not only then but also for many years to come.
You know the phrase, “children are like sponges”? Children absorb information, many don’t have the critical function or the experience to challenge what they are told about themselves, and they simply ‘drink in’ all that information and accept it as ‘True’.
Because of the emotional impact and intensity that some children can feel in relation to what is said to or about them, these ‘impressions’ upon the mind and heart can last a lifetime.
Some children are more ‘resilient’ to what people say about them, but others, like myself as a child are deeply impacted, and some of the effects of what people say can be incredibly wounding. Others, can be like a guiding light of encouragement.
So, I ask you to take a moment to reflect with me upon what is or are the comment or comments that have been instrumental in changing your life? I ask this because I have an inkling that most if not all of us can think of something in answer to this question. We may have received all sorts of messages that have shaped our lives, some positive, perhaps many negative, but what are the key ones that have stood out to you, and how have they affected you? More to the point, if any of them have been negative, then what are you doing about it to ‘re-wire’ your thinking about yourself, your identity, your potential and abilities?
Have you ever been told that you’re not good enough, not smart enough or not able enough to do something? How did you allow this to shape your life? Did you ignore it, did you put all your effort into proving it wrong and proving to yourself that you are able, or did you allow it to limit you by believing it and not even trying? If it is the latter, it’s not too late to question those words and to give yourself another chance.
Were you ever told that you’re not attractive enough, or were you compared to other people? Did this set you on a journey of discovery into what ‘true beauty’ really means, and has it made you a deeper more compassionate person in being able to see and appreciate the worth and value in everyone no matter what might be different about them? Or did you sink under the weight of negative comments, and succumb to depression, anxiety, low self esteem, self-harm, eating disorders, a lack of trust? Do you know that it’s not too late to change how these comments impact your life and turn things around for your good and to help other people? It starts with one small step, as all great journeys do.
Did someone see the potential in you and encourage you to use your talents? Were you told you were a great writer, artistic, musically talented, kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent? How have these comments been instrumental in shaping your life for the better? Did they spur you on to achieve your dreams, or to use your gifts and talents even in some small way? Do they encourage you when you feel down? Have they had such a positive impact upon you such that they have not only impacted the course of your life, but have helped you to encourage, mentor, and teach the younger generations coming after you?
What is the comment that has been instrumental in changing or shaping your life? How has it done so?
And finally, something for you to reflect upon: what are the comments you are making to other people that might be having an impact upon their lives, and potentially others, whether for good or bad? Do you consider the impact of your words and actions? Are they creating and speaking life, growth, goodness and love into situations and people’s lives, or do you think you may need to take a step back and rethink what you have been saying?
One small sentence can spring forth hope within the heart or create deep and lasting wounds. One comment, especially to a child, or a sensitive soul, can have the potential to impact their lives, their decisions and who knows, maybe even the opportunities of generations to come.
How are you using your words, especially in the lives of children? Are you leaving a legacy of hope, of love, of encouragement and opportunity? Or are you leaving them with wounds that might take decades of their lives to rebuild within their tender hearts and minds?
And back to you. How are you allowing the comments that have impacted your life to continue to shape and change you and what you do with them? It’s never to late to reach higher, or to turn a bad situation round for good.
Do you give up, or do you reach higher?
I hope you find, and are, an inspiration today. 🙂 x
Within each of us, we hold precious dreams of the life we long to live. As we move through this world the reality of the darkness that surrounds us as well as the darkness that we find in our own minds and hearts can quench those dreams. We struggle just to make it through.
Last year I wrote a lot about overcoming those ‘roadblocks’ in our minds and lives. I wrote about overcoming past difficulties, traumas, mental health struggles, in the hope that this might encourage some of you as well as help me make sense of certain things and to gain in strength and mental resilience. Last year I wrote a lot about recovery, self care and resilience. If you are in a difficult place, please browse through my previous posts to help you find some strength in moving forwards.
I know that there is still a lot of work within me to get to where I am living fully. After all, when I first started this blog almost three years ago I called it ‘Life as it happens to be’ and the web page ‘livingfully2017’ to signify what I hoped it to reflect and the date that I started the blog.
This year I want to challenge myself to take things a bit further. There are so many articles and posts that I have written to inspire and encourage you and I in terms of recovery, getting stronger, finding worth, self care, mental wellbeing and so forth. They’re there if we need them, and no doubt we will find it beneficial to look over these again. I’ll probably write more on these topics as they are so close to my heart and life story that it wouldn’t make sense not to explore them further and more deeply as I continue to journey through life and making sense of things.
However, this year I am considering being more intentional in my focus. To create posts that help and encourage us to ‘live fully’ right where we are, and to explore what may be holding us back from stepping forwards with courage and confidence. I hope to be less focused on overcoming past struggles and have more of a vision to inspire, equip and encourage.
It can be difficult to dare to dream when we have so many insecurities buried deep within ourselves, or even bubbling at the surface. It can be hard to believe for better when we’ve been told so many negative things in this world. But it’s up to us to take this as a challenge, to choose differently, to overcome, to thrive and to soar. Now, I don’t know how to do this as I haven’t got that far along the path myself, but I have come a very long way in ‘recovery’ and if I can put the same efforts into building something new as I have done in surviving and overcoming the old, the past, the difficult things of life, then who knows just what might be possible.
When I talk about daring to dream, please don’t let that hinder you if you lack confidence (as I often do). Daring to dream doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of things or accomplishing a string of goals. Daring to dream is perhaps more of an internal journey to become the people we want to be. I will always point to my Beacon, The True Light, the only One Who can regenerate, bring new life, forgiveness, and a fresh, clean start, making us new from within – Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no lasting or eternal hope and any changes are temporary if they are not built up on Him, the sure foundation.
My faith and relationship with God is integral to my identity and out of it will flow my thoughts and learning about life. However, I also believe that regardless of who you are or what you think at this moment in time, there are ways in which we can encourage and help each other to grow in knowledge and awareness of our worth, of discovering our gifts and talents, of growing in confidence and courage, and reaching out to others with kindness, respect and love. Daring to dream that we can live more fully the lives of possibility that are set before us rather than remaining chained by all that has hindered us so far.
It is ok to be uncertain, unsure of how we will grow in confidence and refuse to let the negative messages we’ve experienced in life hold us back. It’s ok, as quite often the greatest changes stem from tiny ‘baby steps’ taken consistently over time. We all can think of examples in our own lives where we have persevered and made progress.
So, let’s dare to dream this year, as we journey together into the New. x
Life can leave us feeling crushed sometimes. Disappointment after disappointment can pile upon our fragile hearts so much so that we begin to lose hope. Discouragement can sometimes be worse that what we are afflicted by because when discouragement sets in, as I well know, we lose faith that things will get better for us.
Can anybody relate to this?
Whatever you may be going through right now in life, if you have ‘serendipitously’ (or purposefully) stumbled across this post, I want to plant some words of encouragement in your heart and mind.
I know what it is to be crushed. To watch other people’s lives progressing, sometimes almost seamlessly, while feeling I am face down in the dust, having to get up over and over, punch after punch, hard knock after hard knock.
If you can relate to this, whether that be because of ill health, chronic pain, mental distress, family breakdown, hurt, pain, abuse, loss, loneliness, divorce, bereavement, self-hatred, addiction or whatever other of the many things you might be facing in this broken world, then listen up, my friends.
When we feel crushed, it can feel so very personal on so many levels. Our spirits and hearts may be crushed, and our minds feel ‘broken’ and we’ve all but lost hope. It seems far too great a leap to even think that things can get better for us sometimes, don’t you think?
This is precisely where we need to start to gently and gradually work towards a vision for our recovery. As unbelievable as it may feel or seem to you right now, it matters so much.
How can you do this?
Faith. The Rock on which I stand and on which my Life is built, is and always will be Jesus Christ, so in the first instance I will point you to look to Him in your desperation and to call out to Him – He not only knows what to do, but He knows you personally, having woven your substance into being, giving you the breath of life, and He not only knows what to do, but He also has the power and ability to heal you, restore you, and give you a purpose to use your pain for good. Ask Him, however feebly, to Help you.
2. Inspiration. Regardless of where you stand in relation to my first point, this second one will help you to bridge the mental and emotional gap between where you are now and where you believe you can be. It is quite simply to find living examples of people who have defeated the odds, and to listen to their stories, to watch their videos, to read their books or blogs, to talk to them in person. This really helped me in a dark and difficult time in my life when I was diagnosed with c-PTSD.
One person I found a great deal of inspiration and courage from was and is Katie Piper. In her early twenties she was a young, attractive, blonde, outgoing woman, interested in a life as a TV presenter and she was also involved in modelling. Her career was built around her looks and her bubbly personality. She unfortunately got into an unhealthy short-term relationship and when she realised there were ‘red flags’ with this person and called things off, he retaliated. First she went through horrendous physical attacks by this man, who also raped her. Then he set her up by getting a friend of his to pour acid on her face. She was covered in severe burns from head to toe, and when her parents saw her in the hospital they couldn’t recognise their daughter because she was so severely disfigured. It was a world away from the world which she had once known and any hopes and dreams of her former career and life were instantly burned up with that acid. She couldn’t walk, talk, eat, was in excruciating pain and wanted to die. She now has gone through years of intensive burns treatment, is a writer, has published books about her experiences, set up a burns charity and foundation with the doctor who treated her, thereby helping countless others, has been involved in documentaries helping other survivors, and is now happily married, a wife, mother of two lovely daughters, has her independence again (after being terrified to leave her house) and appears on TV, radio, awards ceremonies and helps other people, as well as now branching out into other roles that have nothing directly to do with her ‘survival story’.
I find this incredible, because at her lowest Katie had all but completely given up. I read her biographies and watched her videos, because to me it seemed far ‘worse’ than anything I had ever gone through. This is not a call to ‘compare’ traumas, because we can’t really do that, pain is pain at the end of the day, but it helped me to have someone to look up to through her writings, almost like a ‘big sister’, and also because her story was so far removed from mine it wasn’t ‘triggering’ in the way other sources that I turned to were. I previously obsessively watched YouTube videos on bullying, bullycide and these negatively affected me because they were my experiences. But looking to other people who made it through their different tough times I was able to find inspiration and motivation. If they could go through all that and make it through then I could surely get through my ‘stuff’. Another person I found encouraging was Nick Vuijicic. I won’t go into his story here because you’ll understand my point of looking to people who haven’t given up and whose lives have the power to inspire your own recovery journey, but look him up.
The amazing thing is you’ll find so many more people whose lives testify to the tenacity of the human spirit, the determination to survive, and then to find ways to thrive, using those adverse experiences and pain in a transformative way, many touched and carried by the Grace of God, and seeing His touch in their lives. People, who like us become more outward facing, as they challenge the pain that draws them in and under, and defy it. People whose compassion is real because they, we, have gone through our own stuff too.
Find your people. They may surprisingly be closer than you think, because everyone has a story to tell. They might be famous people, or they may be the person you see every day but have no idea that they’ve themselves ‘overcome the odds’. Other people don’t necessarily see me, or you, or know our stories. They may think it’s all been plain sailing, but it has not. Similarly, there may be stories, lives of hope all around you. When you find them, if they are in that place where they want to share with you, listen carefully, attentively, and let that hope encourage you as you take your next steps forward, as you simply breathe your next breath.
3. Your future self. As you begin to dwell in the realm of possibility, inspired and encouraged by faith, and by seeing and hearing about the lives of real life people who didn’t let their circumstances defeat them, start to envision your own recovery. Who do you want to be on the other side of this? Forget the impossible, which is to say, forget that anything is impossible, it only seems to be.
So you can’t get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t either. Your vision doesn’t need to be bound by that: what do you want to be on the other side of this challenge? A blogger, a writer, a motivational speaker, a mentor, a compassionate friend, someone who listens, someone who inspires? Be specific if you can. Do you see yourself in front of a group of people who are suffering, telling them how you did it, and that they can too?
Your vision is yours. As you think about these things, you switch the pathways that are focusing on your pain, on your ‘prison’, to focusing on your possibilities.
‘Neurons that fire together wire together’, so be aware of the thought patterns that you are allowing to keep you down or help you up. Keep thinking of the possible and you will overcome the prison of your pain.
Creativity has been a great natural pain reliever for me, because of where it allows my mind to go, and the new neurological pathways that form and get strengthened. It isn’t an easy or a quick road, or way out, but it is a healthy way out and forward and I can’t even believe how much of a difference it has made in my life. Because it takes me away from the suffering, even momently, into a different mental, emotional, and neurological and psychological space. Keep building up your creative outlets, focus your mind on what can be built rather than what is broken, and you will find some soothing in that.
5. Your People
Times may get tough. You’ll need people on your side, cheering for you, motivating you, listening to you or being there when you break down. I have had some really special people on my side, and now it is my turn to be there for others. Find someone, find a group of people, and if you don’t have anyone in your friends or family to be those people, know that there are groups, helplines, charities and networks you can reach out to. In my deep times of PTSD and depression when I felt it was too much for me to keep burdening friends and family although they were always there for me, I turned to helplines and found encouragement there, even if for a moment, and that is what they are there for, to help you through, to help you now. You’re not meant to do this all on your own, so find your people, and believe that one day you will become that person to someone too so don’t feel ‘guilty’ for reaching out and accepting help – we’re all human and we all need that human touch and support. Accept their help and appreciate them. Your turn to reach out and give back will come in due course.
Listen to inspiring, motivational music, find your ‘fight song’, the one that gets you up, keeps you going. Mine, which I still listen to almost every day is ‘Overcomer’ by Mandissa. I like the video that goes along with it because it shows real people, real overcomers. What you allow in to your mind will be shaping what you think about your identity and the possibilities, so make sure it is positive, truthful and going to help you forwards, rather than keep you focused inwards on the pain and suffering. You’re an overcomer.
Gratitude is a far more powerful force than people give it credit for. Suffering will lead you to a greater appreciation of the things most people take for granted – the very ability to breathe your next breath in life. To do the simplest of things, this takes on a new meaning, a new value. Be grateful for the ‘small victories’ for they really aren’t that small at all. I can’t tell you how it felt that I could not move my body or do the smallest of things without feeling like my mind was exploding in a nightmare, depression meant I could barely function it was a massive achievement for me to merely feed myself, to wash a cup, and yet I’ve somehow maintained a full time job, done well and I’m out and about traveling and meeting friends again when I was terrified to leave the house before. Taking a spoonful of food might be our greatest achievement in a particular day. Sleeping through the night an incredible feat. Going to your next appointment. Tying your shoelaces. Brushing your hair when your hands are crippled with pain. Remembering to take your medication. Staying alive. These ‘small things’ can be massive, so appreciate them, and appreciate the many blessings you have.
There is so much on your side, your Creator is with you and for you, people who care for you are propelling you on, there is so much motivation in the lives of others who have made it through. You might feel like giving up right now, like it is an impossibility, but take heart, and simply take that next breath.