Recently, I’ve written quite a few posts on the theme of friendship.
Reflecting upon this aspect of our lives has brought me to the realisation that there is a unique, shared and comforting experience in being part of the blogging ‘community’. While we don’t have blogging ‘chat rooms’ or spaces as such (or at least not that I’m aware of. I know there used to be such shared spaces hosted by WordPress with daily challenges, community hubs and so forth, but they seem to have disappeared from my view – if they are still there somewhere please let me know 🙂 ), we still have avenues of interaction with each other through comments, likes, sharing and collaborative posts.
I’m over two and a half years into my blogging adventure, and some of you have come to be familiar ‘faces’ in this journey. I have become familiar with some of your blogs, and have learned a bit about you as individuals from what you have shared, and often look forward to seeing your updates, as well as seeing you interacting with mine.
In a recent post on friendship I reflected upon the benefits of friendships and long term trusted connections in our lives.
And I have come to realise that this online shared space where we can express our deeper thoughts about our lives quite freely is in fact a real blessing, opportunity and comfort as we journey through not only our blogs, but in a remote yet potentially significant way, our lives together.
There is something about sharing the human experience that makes us feel less alone, don’t you think? And while nothing can replace face to face and real time connection with people we care about, blogging adds an extra dimension to our lives in which we can communicate some of our deepest thoughts and express parts of ourselves that perhaps we can’t do so freely with the people we meet with face to face, or at least not in the same way.
I realise that I really value this, and all of you, as we encourage each other in our blogs, and also our lives.
It is a gift and a blessing to share this journey, even in some small way, with you. Wouldn’t it be something if in years to come we have a community of people who mutually encourage and edify each other as we go through life?
As I approach my third year of blogging in a few months, I am certainly grateful that I began this adventure and journey of discovery and am very glad that I can share some of it with you. x
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
So, it’s a dark, cold and rainy winter’s night. You’ve watched all the things you want for the night, you’ve had some reading time, you want something interesting to do and think about.
Why not read your blog from over the past year? I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time writing my blog, in comparison to how much time I ever spend looking back and reading and reflecting upon old posts.
And yet, I feel like having this is such a blessing in my life, because it captures my thoughts about life as I live and go through my days. I think it’s wonderful that I have this record to look back upon and see what I’ve been learning and not just what I have done.
Maybe you haven’t blogged as much as you have wanted to this year, and that’s ok, but if you have written a few posts, why not spend one of these winter nights in just taking the time to read what you have written and get an idea of how you have grown and changed over the year and what you have learned.
You might actually find some really helpful and insightful ‘nuggets’ from what you yourself have written to share with other people. Give it a go, and enjoy the journey! 🙂
Last week I wrote about how I went for the first time to a little place where you can paint pieces of pottery. This was a birthday treat from my mum, and we had an enjoyable ‘crafternoon’ getting creative and a little messy (or at least I was messy, with paint all over my hands!) painting pottery.
It was the first time I had done something quite like this, but it was a blast. Not only did I have a blast, but our pottery did too. It was dipped in some kind of a green glaze (all you potterers out there will know the technical terms for these things, I’m just a ‘newbie’) and then put in the heat of a kiln, and after a week it was ready for me to come and collect.
Here is how it turned out. Just my first ever attempt so hopefully if I have another go I can learn more about technique and do something a bit better. But it is full of fun and happy memories.
So a little piece of encouragement from a little piece of pottery – if in your life you find that the heat is up, the pressure is on and you’re in a ‘fiery furnace’ – stay strong, endure, persevere and let it pass – you might find that you emerge on the other side, stronger, shinier, more vibrant with your true colours radiating brightly for all to enjoy. Be encouraged, friends! 🙂
Travelling teaches youto laugh. They say that laughter is the best medicine…while this may not necessarily be factually true in all cases, laughter, liveliness and joy certainly help to boost good health, wellbeing and happiness. We all need a good dose of fun and light-heartedness in our lives and travelling teaches us this whether it be through the people we meet, the jokes we hear, the mishaps and misunderstandings we experience, the unusual signs we come across, or the observations of life around us.
It is easier to laugh when you are happy, and for me, it is easier to be happy when I travel. What about you? 🙂
Travelling teaches you(if you have the luxury to travel on your own), to take time out from the people you love so that you can connect on a deeper level with your own life, centre yourself and most importantly connect with your Creator, rediscover your life purpose, all of which in turn will ultimately help you be a better version of you and better care for the people you love when you return to them.
It may be glaringly obvious from the above statement that I am writing as a single person. I am aware that for many travel, holidays, vacation or whatever form seeing the world takes for you may involve spouses, family, children and even extended family and friends. Maybe you are able to carve out some time to yourselves if that is what you need, maybe that seems impossible for you at present. However, a word out for the singletons or solo travellers among us to really make the most of this time in your life, whether it is a temporary season or one that might stretch indefinitely ahead, learn in all seasons of life to view things positively. As humans we need ‘re-wiring’ as by default we seem to be wired to look at (or complain about) what we lack rather than being grateful for what we do have, even if what we have is a lesson or challenge. Perhaps we dwell upon aspects of loneliness or dreams of company rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth, connection and self reflection and nurturing so that we can be better to the people in our lives. I am sure that there are many who would cherish a few precious moments to themselves that they just can’t seem to find in the busyness of their lives. So if you are able to take time out and reconnect with the deeper things in life, see it as an opportunity, one which so many others would love to have….alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, so find a way to thrive in your solitude if you are a solo traveller, or single through the journey of life just now. xx
Travelling teaches you to dream again. Sadly, sometimes, the pressures or even just the ‘predictability’ of daily life can stifle us and be a contributing cause for us to stagnate in life. Travelling sparks something within us to help revive and excite the dreamer within, to reach deep and touch the place hidden in each of us that has the potential to see life afresh with child-like wonder, curiosity, fascination, openness and awe. I believe this goes deeper than the act of travelling itself to a place within each of us that was born to dream, to hope, to imagine, to create, and to reach for I believe, the One Who Created us for a life far beyond what the world has pressed and moulded us into accepting. Travelling is not the end in itself, nor the final ‘Teacher’, but it is an important part of the journey that reminds our souls not merely to exist or to survive, but to Live again. ❤
Travelling teaches youto put your problems in perspective.
For some, “getting away from it all” is exactly what we hope to be able to do. Not just in terms of getting away physically from the daily routine and responsibilities of day-to-day life, but as a means of escape from our deeper problems or issues or challenging circumstances and people.
Travelling teaches you, quite naturally, to look outside of yourself, to grow in awareness of other people, your surroundings, new cultures, ways of doing things and of life in general. One of the gifts of travel to you is that of a fresh perspective, and perhaps even renewed strength to go back and return to take on the tasks and issues of life that you needed a break from.
However, as naturally as this gift comes to us through the very experience of travel, there is a caution that we need to use this gift to grow and gain insight into how to live better or face those challenges, and not merely seek to keep escaping or running from them if that is the aim of “getting away”. For although we may be afforded for a time the freedom to live without those life problems pressing in upon us, we will at some point need to face the ‘world within’ that we cannot simply travel away from…and yet, exploring the world gives us new skills, insights and even hope to do just that with greater courage and confidence. xx
Travelling teaches you to know yourself. Sometimes we take it for granted that we know certain aspects of our character or personality well, however, it may be the case that we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned in a certain way in our day-to-day lives, or we may be drifting along with our ‘likes, dislikes, decisions or opinions’ being influenced or even imposed upon us by those around us. We may simply find ourselves going with the flow, and not really experiencing the opportunities to live in a way that authentically resonates with who we really are.
Travelling, especially when we are able to do so alone, helps us to grow in awareness of our own needs, wants, desires, as well as of our own shortcomings, failures and need to change or develop certain aspects of our character. Living a life of authenticity is so important, however, although travel is a beautiful teacher in this respect, we can also carve out in our daily lives opportunities for such growth and reflection by taking time out, and being purposeful in getting to know ourselves better, and living more authentically as a result.