I feel like my last few posts have been a bit ‘heavy’. It’s the reality, but we also need to be able to focus on the good things, the little bursts of sunshine, and the brighter rays of light in our days.
I’ll keep this short in the hope that we can continue to build community spirit and resilience, and that some of you will post about the ‘little things’ that have been good in your days. Thank you.
Words of Encouragement (8):
*Can I feel happy and sad?*
In short, yes. This is a confusing, strange and distressing time. We are alive, we are surrounded by life, but also by continuous news of death and suffering on a mass scale, on a global scale, yet also right in our own towns and cities. We are all learning how to be happy with those who are happy, and to also mourn with those who grieve. We are surrounded by contradictions that we are all learning to hold in balance. We are trying to find ways to encourage and support each other, to enjoy the gift of life and be grateful for those in our lives, to make the most of ‘isolation’ and keep our spirits up, and encourage our friends and families and especially children, while at the same time living through wave upon wave of tragedy crashing in upon humanity. You might feel guilty for the times you smile, laugh and enjoy life in this strange season, and you also might feel a burden of grief at times as the world around you wails. It can be confusing, it can be tough, but there is no right or wrong way for you to feel, and your experience of this situation and your feelings are valid. Take time to just sit and be with your thoughts and feelings for a moment if it is all a bit much. Breathe deeply and try to find ways to be calm and relax. This is affecting people in different ways, and that’s ok.
Take care to try to maintain a balance. To know that even while it is a very dark time for many people across the world, it is ok for you to smile, and to share something positive, because those around you may just need that joy and that hope to be able to keep going.
Life births, buds, blossoms and blooms, and eventually withers and fades, with the hope (if you should so choose) of resurrection and new life once again.
In all the seasons of our lives we spend much time thinking of ‘what’s next’, or looking back either regretfully or with fond nostalgia. How often though, do we simply enjoy and live the life we are living? Not often enough, I would say.
Let me tell you an interesting fact. One of this year’s winners of The Grammy Awards, Nicola Benedetti, the now world famous violinist, is someone who I went to the same youth orchestra as when I was quite young, and in high school. I didn’t know her personally but I saw her and her sister around from time to time, but our paths never crossed on a personal level. It’s wonderful that she has accomplished her dreams. Before you get any wrong ideas about me or my skill levels with music, I admit, like many other of the youngsters there I was perhaps painfully average at the violin and that was fine by me. It was never such a passion of mine, nor did I have any particular natural talent. My passion back then was writing, literature and anything creative.
Alas, I digress. The point is, some people do ‘make it big’. They have a talent, and work relentlessly hard to hone and perfect their craft and turn it into a skill, and doors open for them some way or another, to be able to share their gifts with the world. That’s really quite special and perhaps rare for most of us ‘pilgrims, poets and dreamers’ (c) who live comparatively average lives.
Some people become stars, and others gaze up at the stars, longingly, and either way that is ok, because each individual is special and each life, however humble, is of immense worth whether or not we feel we have any talents or gifts to share, since simply being is enough. You are a person of worth. That means you are a person of worth whether you are playing on a world stage or sleeping rough on the streets, nothing can erase that Truth.
So, where was I? Yes, daydreaming. 🙂 Whether you have or have had dreams of something or another, or whether you feel you don’t have anything particularly exceptional to offer, remember to stay interested in the things that interest you.
You might be working hard like Nicola Benedetti to hone your talents and do remarkable things, or you might simply enjoy creating an occasional sketch, doodling, colouring in, cross-stitch, model making, creating music of your own, writing poems, reading literature. If it is a more humble path, that is perfectly ok, and it is a gift in itself. Don’t get so caught up in the ‘never’ or the ‘not yet’ or the ‘then’ that you miss the little gifts of life right now.
Most people who become famous by default, and not for the sake of fame, have been pursuing a passion, something they intrinsically enjoy, and working and training to become even more highly skilled at it.
In a world of goals and achievements and accomplishments and ‘fame’, don’t forget the simple joys of being absorbed in the simple pursuits of happiness that you love.
Stay interested in your life, it is pretty remarkable too, y’know? 🙂 . x
Just because your yesterdays may have been tinged with sadness, darkness, fear and struggle, that doesn’t mean your tomorrows can’t be filled with joy from mourning, light, courage, strength and peace.
Life in the adult world can be stressful at times. Goodness, life as a teenager and even as a child can be filled with challenges, depending on one’s circumstances and disposition. Today, however, I had the good pleasure of spending the afternoon with my little God-daughter, and my friend who is her mum who I have known since university days before her two children were born. We were belatedly celebrating her 10th birthday at the same place I took her to the previous year. Her choice, so I know she liked it.
Last month she had her birthday celebrations with friends and family, and today I got to celebrate with her, and be reminded to smile at all of the things a happy child has going on in her little world.
As adults our problems come and go, we stress and worry, we make big decisions. But today, this little one’s decisions featured around whether to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream (in the end, she went for a scoop of both, in a big wafer cone, and couldn’t finish it although it clearly tasted amazing!); how to wipe all of the ice cream off her face; which toy, toys or outfit to buy with her £20.00 that she brought with her; and best of all hoping for things to work out as she desired – think of what our hopes are as adults, what do we really want to happen, and then contrast it with this little girl’s hopes for the day – she hoped and hoped that it would rain! Not because there is any shortage of rain here, it rains frequently…too frequently most would say – but because one of her birthday presents that she brought with her on today’s outing was an ‘umbrella hat’…basically this is the top of an umbrella (multicoloured of course! think rainbow, or ‘Skittles’, a different colour in each ‘segment’), with an elastic headband attached, and just the right size to fit over a child’s head! 🙂 It did rain, and it was splendid. She wore her little umbrella hat with pride, and when we were indoors again she didn’t take it off until absolutely necessary, and she didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone else might think, as she was oblivious to that notion – for her the hat was just what everyone needed, and she was the only little girl around, and the only person around who was wearing one!
Imagine for a moment living life that way. Enjoying the ice-cream, spending a long time playing with toys in a big toy shop, unable to decide what to buy, and in the end not buying anything from the shop at all, of hoping that it will rain so that you can wear your one of a kind rainbow umbrella hat! Yes, I know, life isn’t that simple for us adults, but don’t you think that sometimes we make it far too complicated for our own good?
Why don’t we think of our favourite things more often, things that don’t cost the earth, that don’t have to be worthy of taking pictures of, but just to enjoy those simple, fun and happy things that for a child make life worth living? Today might be a good day to try out that umbrella hat for yourself, or to enjoy the ice-cream and not worry about getting chocolate on your face! Keep smiling 🙂 x
This verse has been silently running through my mind for the past wee while. I have often thought about it in time of need, and it has been a challenge to me personally when I have been going through difficult times. The verse is from the Bible from the letter, entitled ‘Romans’ in the New Testament (Romans 12:15), from the apostle Paul to the believers in Rome. Paul was writing this while he was in prison, and the incredible thing is that even while he was bound and in chains he knew a deeper freedom than most of us know in this life. His freedom in Christ. However, even if you are not a Christian, I think this verse has something for all of us to reflect upon through the changing seasons of life.
It’s a tiny phrase, but it says so much. Don’t you think? “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”.
I’m not entirely sure why this has been in my mind recently, however, I think it probably has much to do with seeing the contrasting seasons that some of my friends are in. Whereas previously, in earlier days, I would have been thinking of this from a more challenging place of mind and heart, when I was suffering and my friends were going through really happy times, times of joy, love and fulfilment of dreams, now I am looking at it from a different standpoint in terms of my season of life. I’m kind of ‘in the middle’ of things in terms of circumstances and wellbeing if I were to consider my experience in comparison with what some of my friends are going through. Some are rejoicing, and others are mourning. And at the moment, for the first time in a long while, despite the ups and downs of life, and as yet unfulfilled dreams, questions about the future as time passes, I’m actually doing just fine right now and making the most of things.
I have a friend who recently lost her mother. I have another friend who is overjoyed and loving life as a new mum after her season of wondering whether it would ever happen for her. I have friends who had wonderful seasons of joy, and the blossoming of marriage in their early 20’s, only to be faced with the painful sting of divorce, which was a surprise and shock to friends who know them and care for them.
I know some people for whom life has been a pretty happy ride ‘merrily down the stream’, just like a dream, as the nursery rhyme tells us. And overall most of us have a mixture of things going on. But there are seasons in life where either we ourselves or those around us could be said to be quite poignantly in seasons of mourning or of rejoicing. Mourning doesn’t necessarily relate only to bereavement. You could think of it also in terms of many of the painful depths of human experience. Mourning could be as vast ranging as the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, struggling to come to terms with your wayward adult children who have made wrong choices in their lives causing distress to those around them, it could be unfair treatment, unfulfilled longings, cruelty inflicted upon you by others, or illness, depression, losing the ability to walk, sing, smile, talk, or remember things or people you once loved.
Seasons of joy are also evident when we see them. Perhaps something broken has been restored. Maybe a fractured friendship or family relationships have been mended, and you feel a joy in contrast to the loss you once felt. Joy restored! Maybe it is characterised by accomplishment, carefree times, births and marriages, or new milestones. Perhaps a business venture or a project or a dream has come to fruition, or perhaps you have learned a new skill or lost some weight, become healthier, got fit, are challenging yourself to try new things, you feel healthy, life is going smoothly and for the most part all is well.
So, how do we relate to the contrasts in the lives of those around us? How do we “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” as we are encouraged to do?
I don’t think that there is a simple or straightforward answer, as it is a lesson that we must learn and be shaped by throughout our life’s journey on earth. One thing, however, that does really speak to me is that even if we are not sharing an experience with someone else, even if they are rejoicing while we are hurting, even if they are mourning while we are rejoicing, or are just doing alright, even though we don’t necessarily share the same experience, we do all share a common humanity. And we are called to care about each other, to be sensitive to one another, and to consider each others needs.
It can be hard to know how to support a friend when they are in mourning. But we can be withthem. Maybe this doesn’t mean that we are with them physically, as that is not always possible, but it does mean that we can consider what they are going through, what they might be feeling, and how we can ease their load at least a little. We can reach out to them and show them the kindness of a friend, we could help them with their practical needs, send them a gift or a card, or if they are open to us we could simply sit there with them in the quietness of their grief, or listen if they want to talk, or hold them as their tears fall….or…..give them space. Maybe if you have gone through a similar experience, or are going through the experience with them, then you will have a better idea how to bring some comfort in that particular situation.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice can be a wonderful thing. We might ourselves be in a place of rejoicing, and life is like one big celebration in this time, but what if we are not? What if we are just doing ok, or muddling along, or struggling with pain or heartache in our own lives? We can choose to rejoice. We can choose to be kind to others, to wish them well, to love them and pray for them, we can choose to celebrate their milestones, even when we are longing for or waiting for our own. We can choose to think kindly of others. We can choose to be the kind of caring and kind person we aspire to be, even when that takes challenge or a ‘sacrifice’ on our parts. That said, it doesn’t mean that you neglect your own wellbeing. Sometimes, it is just hard, nigh impossible to show up for others if you yourself are in a difficult place in life. Be kind to yourself, be gentle, and know that you are choosing to cultivate a mindset of kindness to others…and to yourself. I personally believe that it is only possible to do this fully by the Love of Christ. However, I also know that we each bear the image of the One Who Created us, and that even those who don’t believe in Him, still have a capacity for a deep kindness to others, through our shared humanity.
If you are in a season of rejoicing yourself, try to think of a time when you were not, as long as it is ‘safe’ mentally and emotionally for you to do so. Perhaps there was a time of hardship in your life. Perhaps the thing you are rejoicing about now is something that you were longing for, or waiting for, or heartbroken about in times past. Perhaps your dreams were deferred, your hopes unfulfilled, and maybe you were in a time of sadness. Do you remember the sting of pain that you felt when those around you were rejoicing over the things that were so far off from your own life and experience? Maybe what you are celebrating now, and rejoicing over, is a similar cause of pain to someone else in a season of ‘mourning’. Maybe you can’t see the full extent of what they’re going through, of course you can’t, we can’t. But you can consider them. You can rejoice over your blessings, but you should also be sensitive to others you may unintentionally be hurting. And if you have never had such a negative experience yourself, count yourself blessed, but still try to put yourself in the shoes of others, and think about how they might feel.
Only by showing kindness to ourselves and caring about others can we begin to respect the profundity of what it means to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. xx
I’m sure most of you will have heard of the popular acronym ‘FOMO’; if you haven’t and you worry that you haven’t heard of it, then you probably have it! 😉 For those of you who are familiar with the term, you’ll know that I’m talking about the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, or perhaps we experience it as a long standing condition! Missing out on what, though? We are often more concerned with doing rather than experiencing. We think our lives would be better (and by better, deep down we probably mean more fulfilled, exciting, happier, having more meaning, value, significance and purpose, and perhaps being more admirable in the eyes of others) if we had what that person had, or we could do what they did, or we looked the way they looked or could travel where they travelled, or had their talents, or family or friends….and the list is endless.
FOMO steals from us the precious moment that we can enjoy and live in right now. We anxiously look around us at others, or we get lost inside our own heads thinking of what we ‘ought to’ do to make the most of our time, and generally losing focus on where we are and what we are doing right now, and the value of simply experiencing it deeply.
I got to thinking about this while washing the dishes – I was enjoying the experience of slowing down, appreciating that I had dishes in the first place to wash when other people sadly go hungry, of feeling the warmth of the water through my washing up gloves and enjoying the bubbles. Experiencing the experience, finding the value in it, enjoying the little, simple things, right in front of us.
But then …then I considered the time, the fact that I am on retreat, taking a day’s unpaid leave from work, wondering whether I could get this done quicker and then go out for a walk or to a coffee shop or something more ‘retreat like’. I became more concerned with the doing rather than the experiencing and therefore allowed anxious thoughts to steal the joy of the moment from me. And maybe you sometimes think like that too. But we can come back from that…we can slow down, refocus, and be thankful…and find joy as we move slowly, quietly, peacefully and humbly through the day.
Do you think that all of those people doing all of that amazing stuff really enjoy their lives more? (I’m not talking about in comparison with people who are in situations where their basic needs aren’t being met – that’s a different situation to what I mean, and a topic for another discussion). Maybe the people who seem to have it all ‘should’ enjoy life more…and maybe in some respects they do, and that’s a good thing for them, we should think kindly of them if their enjoyment isn’t harming anyone else- but chances are the reality is that like butterflies people who seem to have it all flit from one thing to another because they need the big experiences, they need to show off their relationships, or look a certain way and be admired for it, or go to so many places because they are not experiencing and enjoying the simple things deeply and so they don’t have contentment and never truly feel like their lives are ‘enough’. Perhaps we are all like this to some extent. All of these things are beautiful aspects of life – wellbeing, healthy relationships, opportunities to connect, to travel, to go on adventures, to experience and learn new things, to grow in ourselves, to develop our skills and our talents. However, if we focus solely on doing and ticking things off our list of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ then these lovely things in life actually become hollow. We rob ourselves of the true value of experiencing our own lives if we are constantly worried or thinking of something else that we might be missing out on, and putting a ‘price tag’ or value on that experience by outward criteria alone.
So, that’s ‘FOMO’ ~ a rather unpleasant state of being and comparison either with others or with our expectations for ourselves. So what on earth is ‘JOMO’? ….
Have you ever noticed a very young child whose parents may be trying to show them something that they hope will be exciting for the child, and that most other people would think would be of interest to them, but instead, they are utterly mesmerized and absorbed by a leaf or flower at their feet (and nearer their eye level anyway), or an ant or something we have learned to dismiss as not being of much interest in our experience. Children can sometimes express such joy and glee at the strangest of things. I once saw a video of a baby in joyful hysterics, laughing its little heart out, when its dad ripped up pieces of paper. It’s silly, but we can learn a lot from young children like that. They don’t care about what else they should be doing, they are just enjoying the little things fully in that moment of their life as it happens. And that in itself, especially to adults, is extraordinary.
I read a quirky little article a while back that talked about replacing ‘FOMO’ and anxiety with ‘JOMO’ – the JOY of missing out. Of not feeling we have to do the ‘big things’, but to find joy in not doing them and enjoying the little things that we love. The joy of missing out can really be translated of the joy of being here, right now, and fully experiencing the good things in your own life however insignificant on the surface they may at first seem.