Tag Archives: marriage

Investing in Friendship.

Connection. Belonging. Love. Shared experiences. In a word: Friendship.

The importance of Friendship:

Friendship is one of the most satisfying and meaningful parts of our experience of being human. Yet, how often do people intentionally invest in their current friendships, or in forging out new connections?

Expectations of Relationships:

Our society often puts such an emphasis on romantic relationships (to the detriment of friendships) to such an extent that they can become somewhat of an ‘idol’, bearing the burden of expectation to fulfil all of our unmet needs. Yet, what about this little gem of a notion that friendships of the non-romantic type can be life affirming, fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives, whether or not you have a ‘significant other’ or a family of your own? In fact, having a wide circle of close friendships can lighten the load on relationships, as you have different avenues through which to express different parts of your personality, a variety of people to share hobbies with that your spouse or partner may not be particularly interested in, and an outlet in which you can be more ‘carefree’ with your friends when the level of responsibility and commitment is not the same and less intense.

How do we measure ‘success’ and satisfaction in life?

We all know that we need human connection in order to thrive, yet we often seem to be a society driven by ‘goals’ that can be measured in terms of ‘success’. In the western world, where the sense of extended family connections tend to be weaker and weakening, in combination with higher divorce rates and more frequent family breakdown, you would think that the value placed upon friendships would be significant; yet is it? Have you set any goals or made any new year resolutions this month? Might they include things that measure ‘success’ or satisfaction in life in terms of money, status, experiences, job / work opportunities, travel, family?

Have you included investing your time and attention in your friendships as part of your thinking?

‘Investing’???!

I don’t mean to sound ‘clinical’ or ‘strategic’ by using the word ‘investing’. However, think about the things that are important to you and that you prioritise in your life. You certainly plan and set aside time and resources to nurture these things, to enable them to grow, don’t you? You invest considerable amounts of time in your job or studies or main occupation. You invest time planning financially. You plan and save for holidays, travel and other experiences. Perhaps you have a set ‘routine’ to enable you to spend quality time with your family – such as ensuring you read your children a bed-time story after your work. I know some people who have ‘date nights’ (although the term makes me cringe somewhat, perhaps because I’m single! 🙂 ) with their spouse, or time when you will eat together as a family, or visit elderly relatives. You are investing your time, care, and attention in all of these life areas. Last year I set a goal to visit my family at least once a month, and apart from one month when the weather was particularly stormy and I couldn’t see them (which I made up for with two visits on another month), I stuck to this and we have all reaped the benefits as a family of this planned and regular time together. Perhaps you have time when you will intentionally invest in your family, in spending time with your spouse, your children, your parents or siblings so that you can keep in touch and connected to each other. So why not so with your friendships? Are you intentional towards the time and attention you give to people in your life who you care about but who are not necessarily directly related to you? Or do you just ‘let things happen’, and ‘go with the flow’? How much time, care and attention we invest in things is a reflection of the importance we place upon them in our lives.

I love that friendships can be ‘organic’, changing, growing, evolving over time, often serendipitously, and I don’t like to put constraints on things that do have such a natural aspect to them. However, how many times have you heard someone say (or have you yourself said) ‘we used to be close, but we just drifted apart’?

When married couples stop being attentive and intentional in their time with each other, when they just let things happen, chances are they are more likely to ‘drift apart’ over time, and maybe you yourself know the devastation that this can bring, impacting upon not only your marriage, but wider connections such as family, friends, and most particularly if you have children. Do people not advise married couples who are struggling to be more attentive, to invest time in each other, in marriage counselling, in paying attention and communicating with each other in order to survive? I’ve personally never been married, but I have sadly seen friends whose marriages are ending or have ended in divorce. It takes work. It takes being intentional and investing our time and care in someone that we value.

Why then, or perhaps it is just my perception, do people feel less comfortable with the idea of ‘investing in friendships’? Why do so many people find that meaningful friendships have fallen by the wayside, to which people respond that they’ve simply ‘drifted apart’?

Experience:

I personally pray into and am intentional with my friendships. There are a couple of people that I knew only as acquaintances that I invested time praying for – for them in their lives with things I thought they needed help with, not necessarily for us to become friends – and these people have become very close friends. All of the friendships that I have prayed into have borne fruit and brought blessings in my life, whether for a season, or for many years. Of course, some people drift away, but for those where there is a mutual interest in staying connected, it takes intention, care and love, and making time for each other. People rarely simply ‘drift’ unless circumstances are so impinging upon that friendship or one or both people lose interest.

Perspectives, and a view from my window:

As a single woman, I highly prize friendships and some friends have become like family to me. I have also learned, from where I am looking, that friends who are married find an outlet in their friendships that they can’t find in their marriage. They find the need for other connections and often find solace in friendships when they and their spouse are struggling to communicate or are going through difficulties or issues which in that type of relationship are always more intense, and it helps them when they have a friend to talk to, to cry with, or to offer an outside and objective perspective. Married people and those in relationships need other friends too to stay healthy and ‘well-rounded’, and possibly sane! 😉

I have also learned that people who spend all of their time with their partner or family can be left feeling very isolated if or when things breakdown, or if one falls ill, or if they face bereavement.

‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves’, so perhaps we need to really give time and attention to this valuable aspect of our lives.

It is also important in friendships to have a balance, a give and take and to not expect too much from any one particular friend, because they too will have their own commitments and other priorities and responsibilities and life issues to balance. Develop a few good friendships so that you don’t leave any particular friend feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, and so that you don’t put strain on the friendship. Learn to know each others needs for space and for connection and find out what works best in those unique relationships whether one to one or in friendship groups.

In a world where family structures are sadly not as stable or as secure as they could or should be, a network of trusted friends can be that ‘extended family’ of sorts that can prove to be mutually beneficial, practically supportive, satisfying and life enhancing.

Do you think it is worth ‘investing’ in any of your friendships today?

Be blessed. x

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Do you live too much ‘in the future’?

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.

x

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When the waiting and the unknown is hard…

Life often presents us with seasons of unknown tomorrows. Sometimes we barely have the breath to be able to live in such a way as to think that there can even be a tomorrow, or we simply struggle on with our heads bowed because of the painful challenges we face. Sometimes we look around us and see other people in seasons of fulfilment and we wait, we pray, we feel disheartened, we hope and wonder if we will ever come to our own seasons of joy and blessing…of our heart’s desires.

Proverbs tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.

Do you know that feeling? The one that is somehow always just under the surface, but you try to wish it away, or to wish your unfulfilled dreams away? Well then you’re not alone. I am sure every human being at some point in their lives has felt this, and some of us go through longer and more protracted periods of waiting, anticipating, hoping, grieving, focusing on the here and now, wondering and beginning again. Hope deferred does make the heart sick, so should we go on hoping?

I suppose we need to ask ourselves at the deepest level, where we are putting our hope, and what are we putting our hope in?

What are you waiting for?

Throughout life’s seasons we wait for things. As a child, you may wait for a toy, for your birthday, to see your best friend, a parent you no longer live with, or you may wait for a holiday.

As a teenager, you may wait for your exam results, to know if you’ll ever fit in at school, for romance, to find out what on earth you are good and what you should do with your life.

As a young adult you may wait and work to pass your driving test, to get the grades you need to get into university, college, an apprenticeship, etc. You might wait for your parents to understand what you are all about. You might be waiting to figure that out yourself. Maybe you are waiting once more for exam results, to find out if you will graduate, for your first job, flat, home and for direction in your life.

Maybe you are single and waiting, looking and praying for a spouse. Maybe you are waiting for test results and for a breakthrough in your health. Maybe you are waiting to save up enough money to travel or to get out of the place you are in that you are longing to leave behind so that you can start afresh. Maybe you are waiting to find out who your birth family are and whether they might want to know you. Maybe you are waiting and trying and praying for a baby. Maybe you are waiting for someone who has left you to come back, for reconciliation with estranged friends or family, for that career break, the pay rise, the new job opportunity, the love of your life, the thing right now that your heart desires.

It can be hard can’t it?

What are you in control of?

At least when we have some sense of control over our lives, our futures, our destiny then we can get to work on making things happen.

You’re waiting for a career break, but you know what steps to take and what training courses to do, and it is within your means to do it, so your hope is now a goal and you are excited about achieving it, even though there is a lot of hard work to do.

You’re waiting for the holiday you’ve always wanted, but you know how to plan for it and make it happen.

You’re waiting to publish your first book but you’ve been writing for a while, so at least you can do something about it and figure out the details of how along the way.

But what of the things that we can’t control, or things that involve a bit more heartache through the process? Like trying for a baby, hoping to find a spouse, the love of your life, hoping to get married and settle down and have a family? What about waiting to know whether your diagnosis will be favourable? What of the things that are not so much in our hands?

Our hearts sometimes ache, and sometimes we become jaded by our current realities especially if contrasted with people around us whose longings have been and are being fulfilled, and we put it down to something being wrong with us, and we want to wish away our hopes and our dreams because at least then it won’t hurt if we don’t have them.

There is no simple response to explain away the depth and intricacies of the human heart. But if you are facing hope deferred right now, just know that you are not alone. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you in your situation, but hopefully it will bring at least a little comfort to know that people throughout the ages and even now experience the heartache that you are feeling and those feelings are valid.

As to where to put our hopes, most people spend most of their lives putting their hopes in things that are transient, fleeting, imperfect and will inevitably disappoint. We put our hopes in other people, in romantic love, in families, in success, in money, in positions of authority, in children, in travel, in achievements. These as wonderful as they can be will inevitably disappoint in some way or another. Even the most ‘picture perfect’ life will have its pain hidden beneath the surface. Because these imperfect things simply cannot fill up the human heart.

I have learned that the only true fulfilment and True Hope that will *never* disappoint (and I know that that is a bold claim) is to put my hope in the One True and Living God. Only in Christ Jesus can I know the deepest needs of my heart being healed and met, and only God can bring to pass the fulfilment of His plan for my life, and show me what I need to do that is ultimately for my best and for His Glory.

Without Him I was merely lost, in pain, and unfulfilled, feeling always ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’, but now I have this liquid love within me, around me, and my hope is in the Perfect, the Eternal, in Pure Unfailing Love that cannot and will never disappoint.

Without Him, what hope is there? I wonder what your answer is in your life?

However, even for those of us who walk with Him, in this life there will still be disappointment, and He more than anyone knows what that feels like in this broken, fallen, sin stained world.

We are in the Presence of the Perfect, and yet our human hearts long for the temporal and temporary pleasures of this life. And you know what? That’s normal. And we don’t need to walk through those longings, hurts, feelings, disappointments or worries alone – we have, or can have Someone by our side always, Who will never leave us, fail us nor forsake us, and Who will constantly love us perfectly and carry us through.

And yes, sometimes God does make us wait. Sometimes for a very long time. And for some their dreams may not be fulfilled this side of eternity. But for some of us they will and we still have to go through the difficult but worthwhile heart lessons that are found in seasons of waiting. Waiting for a child, for marriage, for our calling, for healiing….but while we wait, even if we doubt whether what we hope for will come to pass or not, we wait for and with Someone Who Is Perfect, Who Is Trustworthy, Faithful, Perfectly Loving, Compassionate and Who will never let us down. We wait with Him and we hope in Him. We already have the Best thing Life can offer us in Jesus Christ. And He knows the desires of our hearts, and He will perfect that which concerns us, in His perfect way and time. Regardless of how things turn out – we have HIM. x

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Winter Survival Guide (29) ~ Appreciate.

Someday you may look back on the days you are living right now and wish that you had appreciated them so much more. But why wait for that someday when you can begin to more truly and fully appreciate life now, as you live it?

I had one of those ‘moments’ last week, it was after Church, which had been a Remembrance Sunday service, and I was taking a quiet walk through the park which is just opposite the Church, on my way home to the centre of the city, which I often do. The park is a lovely big park where you can wander around, there are trees, a duck pond, some statues / monuments of sorts, a large circular fountain, park benches, flower gardens, a play park area for children, at the far end there is a small ‘skate park’ for the teens, and you can walk uphill to the top of the park where you are granted a beautiful view over the city, including onto the old castle like building of one of the universities.

The trees in the park were ablaze with autumn colours, the air was crisp and cold, people were walking at a slower pace as they strolled together hand in hand, or walked their dogs. Others jogged, ran and sprinted past as fast as can be. Some lingered while sitting on benches, and children played, often pausing to inspect a leaf, or some other fascinating object at their eye level, or squealing with delight at a squirrel as it scampered by.

The day was blessed with sunlight, and as I wandered through the park, I decided not to head straight home, but to walk around it a couple of times, to stop and look and take it all in, to sit on a bench and enjoy the view overlooking the city, to really appreciate the beauty, the life, the colours around me. From time to time I listened to the birds, while at other points I put my headphones in and listened to worship music. It was blissful. A couple of people came up to me to exchange some small talk, and then went along their way.

I had a moment, while drinking in this beauty, where I realised that these were the moments of my life. The life I was living right then at that moment. These were the special ones that I would hopefully look back upon one day and think of with fondness, hopefully having enough presence of mind to remember them. I decided to pause and appreciate them, the moments, these ‘right now’ moments before moving on.

Maybe you have moments like that, enjoying the beautiful free gifts lavished upon us all. Yet, do you miss them? Do you let them flutter past you because your mind is occupied with what you don’t have? I am trying more and more to appreciate the present, and the good things in my life right now, even while I wonder about my unknown future, about hopes and dreams.

A week prior to this, I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in about a year. We used to meet up with a couple of other single female friends and go out to dinner or meet for coffee, go to church together, and share life. A few years ago this friend met the love of her life, got married, moved further north in the country, and a year and a half ago had her first child, a baby boy. We caught up on life as much as we could over coffee and a fleeting visit. She remembered with nostalgia her carefree single days while living in the city. She loves her husband and baby, but there are things to adjust to, sleepless nights, responsibilities that she didn’t have before. While she was single, she longed for the things she has now, as many of us do, but when we met up, she was somewhat wistful, about the days she had left behind. Perhaps she even missed them, or aspects of them a bit.

Now, here I am, a single young lady living in the city, with my own place, a full time job and friends and interests of my own. I’ve worked hard over the past few years to recover from some tough health challenges and continue to work on it as it’s been a long road. Things are looking brighter however, and I enjoy pursuing my interests and dreams. However, I don’t know what the future holds. I would like to get married and have a family of my own and share that with the family I have now.

I know that many of you also think of the future, you wonder what will be, and your ‘wonderings’ will be different depending on what stage of life you are in and what your perspective and attitude is.

But wherever you find yourself, take time to really appreciate your life right now, or the things that you can. It may not be perfect, you may be going through a really difficult season, but don’t wish away the good things you have now, or fail to appreciate them because you are longing for something else or something more.

I have voyaged through light and shade in my journey through life. There have been seasons characterised by simplicity, seasons of tears and pain and despair of life, seasons of struggle, seasons of healing and now I am entering a season of hope. You will have your own experiences of light and shade in your own life. But take time to appreciate the days of your life right now, even if you are hoping for future blessings or change.

Single ladies, don’t mope and be miserable if you want to find the love of your life – enjoy the free time you have if you have it right now, take time to build up your skills, independence, interests, friendships, career, pursuits. Spend time with the people you love. I love spending time with my family, and talk to my parents every day on the phone because I live alone. I truly appreciate that blessing.

I have had seasons of poor health, and I choose to enjoy and appreciate the health I have now. The home, the friends, the job, the food, clothes, the travel, my blogging community, my church fellowship and family.

What are you taking for granted this winter season as you long for spring? What hopes and dreams do you have that you may be letting tinge your thinking with negativity because you don’t have them yet or don’t know if they will ever be fulfilled? What do you have in your life that someone else might be longing for? A home, a family, food on the table, friends?

There are so many things that we have right now in our lives to appreciate. Let’s take time to appreciate and enjoy them and be thankful for them. And right now, in this moment, I choose to be thankful for and appreciate – you! 🙂 x

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Winter Survival Guide (17) ~ Let the dead leaves fall.

The seasons of the year remind us that change is an inevitable, and thankfully purposeful, part of our lives. Autumn is a beautiful conundrum: we are mesmerised with the beauty of leaves turning vibrant shades of gold, orange, red and yellow – yet what is actually happening is that these leaves are changing, dying and falling away. One season of life gives way to the next, and the spectacular thing is that there is great beauty and vibrancy in Autumn before winter sets in…a beauty which is at the same time a decay and the falling away of old things.

I find this both strange and captivating. Autumn is truly beautiful to me, glorious even, and many other people also find it wondrous – yet who really celebrates decay in any other aspect of life? It’s quite an unusual thought when you reflect upon it.

I think God gives us gifts in the lessons we can learn from the changing of the seasons. There can be beauty in transitions, even ones which mean letting go and moving on.

I think this post in my Winter Survival Guide may be challenging for some of us. There is a tendency among human beings to want to ‘hold on’, or if we want to let go, it doesn’t happen without struggle. We don’t let go of aspects of our lives by seeing them bursting into beauteous colours to gracefully float away in their appointed time, but this is one of the lessons that this season teaches us – the beauty and even majesty of change, of life giving way to life, through death (and isn’t this the message of The Cross). And there is a time and season ‘for every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes).

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If we allow the lessons we are gifted through the changing of the seasons to be an opportunity to reflect upon our own lives, then what is this season saying to you? What can we more generally as human beings learn from it?

I certainly don’t have all, or even many of the answers on this one, but maybe we could find some points of reflection about our lives in the following:

  • Beauty and Gratitude in life’s changing seasons: Perhaps you are facing some poignant changes in your life. Maybe you are in a season of life where you have ‘grown up’ children who are leaving home for the first time, and it is a bittersweet transition for you. In what ways can you truly take time to reflect upon the beauty and the gifts that you have enjoyed, and how can you gracefully let go as one season of life gives way to the next as your children move into another stage of their lives? What ways can the ’empty nest’ – the feelings of sadness, loss and parting be looked upon for their beauty, vibrancy and life? As these previous seasons fade to memories, what aspects of ‘spring’ in the seasons to come could you be looking forward to?

 

  • Acceptance of loss: Maybe what you or someone you know is facing is actual loss, as you deal with bereavement. Is this a time you can spend reflecting upon the good times, and learning to celebrate the life that was? Or maybe you can helps someone else who is grieving to find comfort and hope in this season, maybe it can be a time of quietness, solitude, ‘hibernation’ in a sense, to come to terms with things as they change.

 

  • The parting of ways: Often times we feel reluctant to let things change or to embrace and step into change. Think about the things in your life that you have held onto, even though it was time to let them go, because you were anxious about the unknown, unfamiliar or unexpected. Sometimes ‘leaves’ fall from our lives seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and we are faced with the choice whether to let them go. Sometimes it is right and good to seek to hold on to something, to work at reviving it, nurturing it, bringing it back to life, and health with love because it wouldn’t be right to simply let it go. A marriage for example – maybe it is changing, maybe facing decay in aspects, but it would not be right for the couple to simply give up on each other. Maybe one is already giving up, but the other has to fight to keep things alive, to nurture, to care for, to bring life.
  • At other times however, things do just seem to naturally ‘fall away’. Friendships for example. This is something I am facing at the moment – a friend of several years has silently moved on – it is something they have done with  other friends as well, and so I reached out in love and have left it up to them as to whether they wish to connect, but otherwise to say a loving goodbye if that is what they wish. I have been met with only silence, and so all I can do is pray, and let go. There is a time and season and reason for some friendships and sometimes those seasons pass and we need to allow the dead leaves and dead things of our lives to fall away.
  • Perhaps you have been reflecting on the friendships, relationships, acquaintances and connections in your life, and you have decided to intentionally let go of certain people, with it not necessarily being their choice. Maybe they are not ‘life bringing’ connections and you feel it is best for you to move on. Perhaps you could reflect on how best to do this in a loving way, and where possible if appropriate to offer some explanation to the person. Understandably this isn’t always appropriate depending on the nature of the relationship and how unhealthy or detrimental it might be, but it is nonetheless something that you can take time to reflect upon.

 

  • Things, things, things! Maybe the ‘dead leaves’ of this season in your life are in fact certain material things that you no longer need, use or appreciate. Perhaps their falling away from your life, as you let them go, could bring beauty to someone else’s life. Maybe the ‘letting go’ in this season for you could be a good old de-cluttering and instead of a ‘spring clean’, having an autumn / winter clean!
  • What are some of the things you no longer need that someone else could benefit from? Clothes, books, toys, household goods, furniture, and so forth. Letting them go may benefit not only the people who can make good use of them, but also free you up to enjoy a ‘lighter load’ and the opportunity for a new season. Maybe you don’t need to get rid of things as such, but just unsubscribe from things – emails, newsletters, subscriptions, etc. Do you really need to hold on to them, or is it the season to let them fall away by choosing to intentionally let go?

 

  • Priorities: Sometimes our priorities or projects get old, start to decay, and it becomes time for us to let them fall away. Maybe they once served a purpose, but now they no longer do, or they are just time-wasters, and maybe take our time, attention and dedication away from other more important aspects of our lives. Perhaps when you were young, carefree and single you could spend as much time as you liked doing whatever you liked but now that you are a parent you need to refocus your priorities as your child is far more important than your hobbies or even your career. Maybe you need to make an intentional shift and let certain things go, or at least lessen your time spent on them so that you can nurture new life in other areas of your life. Maybe you are young, carefree and single, but some of the ways you are spending your time are dead priorities, and not even that important after all – maybe it’s time for you to let some of that go so that you can invest in bringing life to more important things such as nurturing yourself, your mental health and wellbeing, your friendships and family relationships, building upon your skills and pursuing your dreams.

 

  • When the dead leaves are our own thoughts, attitudes or characteristics: Many if not most of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought. We hold on to them because they are familiar even though we know them to be destructive. What would happen if we let them go? Of course, it’s not so simple with our minds as to simply see thoughts fall like autumn leaves, but we can make a decision to do the hard work to let go of unhealthy thoughts, to stop believing lies about ourselves or our lives, and to choose to allow new, positive, true, beautiful, kind and noble thoughts to spring to life in the next seasons.

 

  • Letting go of good things: What if the things we need to let go of are good things? There is nothing wrong with them as such, but they just no longer belong in this season of our lives. It can be hard to recognise these at first, but perhaps slowly the realisation dawns upon us – maybe they just no longer are quite the right fit for us. You might have some profound thoughts on what some of these good things in your life might be. I feel like I ought to be able to come up with something at least moderately deep and meaningful to give as an example, but actually the only thing I can think of right now is the Planner I use. I’ve used this type of Planner for the past two years, I absolutely love it and there are so many good and great things about it, its format, set-up, how it helps you see and plan out your goals and for the first year and a half I was making some really good use of it. However, as good as it continues to be, for the Planner hasn’t changed, I’m not really making the most of it anymore because I have changed – the way I do things, the amount of time I can spend doing my Planner in a certain way – it continues to be good, lovely and wonderful, but I think it is nearing the end of having served its purpose for this season, and maybe in the new year I will have a different planner, a different system or way of doing things that works better for me for where I am right now. Maybe it’s just time to let go! 😉

So, what about you? What are the leaves that are falling away from your life in this season? What are some of the things you think you may need to let go of? What have I missed that maybe I could be encouraged to reflect upon? As always, happy to hear your thoughts.

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Single Minded ~ Quick Inspiration for Single People (without families of their own)…

Ditch the stereotypes:

For some reason, society in general views single adults negatively. Romantic relationships have become something of an ‘idol’, a false ‘god’ that we fall down and worship as the ultimate source of happiness, fulfilment, joy and purpose in life. In magazines, television, film, online and among family and friendship groups, falling in love, getting married and having children is viewed as the purpose of life, and if you haven’t ‘achieved’ this in life, you may be looked upon with pity, while other people attempt to ‘fix’ whatever they think is ‘wrong’ with your life by looking for someone to complete you and fill the void in your lonely heart and life.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognise love, marriage and family as an important part of life, and a gift from God, for the purpose of honouring God. Ever since I was a little girl, I saw that as a big part of my life, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out that way so far. And if I allow myself to be honest, I think I am grateful for this. Still hopeful for the future, but grateful for the present. I am very unlikely to idolize marriage in the way many people do. Christ is first in my heart and mind, and I am so thankful for that. I am more aware of the reality of marriage from my friend’s lives, that they are not always the  ‘fairy-tales’ they once dreamt of, and therefore I am not looking to another person to be emotionally resilient for me, which I have learned to be for myself. Even if you are not a Christian, these lessons still apply.

In times past, and if you have read any of Jane Austen’s novels you will be well aware of the societal norms of the time, marriage was closely related to social class, division of labour, financial stability, life expectancy and gender based roles, and the separation of work and home life. Therefore, to not be married by a certain age would be to have a somewhat insecure place in society and with fewer opportunities especially for women, single women beyond a certain age would generally be looked down upon old maids with no future prospects, and the gossipy societal view of such women would be particularly bleak.

However, times have changed, and although our desires for love and companionship and family for the most part remain, singleness can be viewed very differently in today’s society at least in most Western countries. Young and ‘middle aged’ women and men have more opportunities available to them, generally have longer life expectancy and therefore what was once considered middle aged in the past can still be considered young today.

And yet, some of the stereotypes (for example the single woman alone in an apartment surrounded by cats…where on earth did that come from?!) remain, and may even be ingrained in the psyche of certain generations. For whatever reason you find yourself at your particular age and stage and season of life as a single person, I invite you to ditch the stereotype and lie that your life can’t be purposeful, abundant and fulfilling. We can be a generation that inspires, that views this time and season of our lives as single people, whether it turns out to be temporary or ‘permanent’, as one in which we can be world changers, inspirers, people who put something positive into the world and make a difference.

And if you want to sit in an apartment full of cats, then that is your choice….but it is by no means your destiny! 🙂

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Work – Life Balance…

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This post is particularly aimed at the singles and those without children among us, as in general society tends to silently marginalise us and there are not enough articles aimed at this group, in comparison to material on married and family life, but really the principals can apply to people of any stage with a bit of adjustment. 

As humans, we have a tendency to think of the ‘someday’ in the future when things will all fall into place and we can be content and happy and fulfilled. This mindset may be tacitly agreed upon by society and promoted through advertising. However, is this really a healthy way to live? To think, I’ll be happy ‘when’ ….I meet the love of my life, I’m married, have children, have enough money in the bank to go on that holiday, have free time to do what I love, when I retire…..The list goes on and on. 

And yet, we mentally store up time that we don’t even know we have, and deposit our hopes and dreams in an unknown future. 

So many people live their lives ‘on hold’ waiting for retirement, waiting to settle down, to find that ‘someone’, to travel, to have that longed for child, to start that business, to fulfil that extraordinary goal. And some people do manage to live lives that just seem on the surface to blossom. But what about those among us waiting for that ‘someday’. 

I’d like to encourage you to think of today as that someday. Why not? What about now? 

If you love your job, and it is a passion you are pursuing, that is wonderful. Hopefully you are able to find balance to also factor in other things you enjoy and are meaningful to you. 

But if you are like many people I have observed, you might at first have started out with starry eyed dreams, but have become jaded, and seem to live for that ‘someday’, or even live each week for the weekend, hurrying along the life that you should be living and enjoying.

Maybe your job isn’t perfect, but is your attitude? Maybe you can’t change your boss, your co-workers or conditions but can you change your outlook to choose to enjoy what is good about your job, look for the growth lessons in what you struggle with, and speak up and make a difference for yourself and others where there may be scope to make a change? Can you *choose* the perhaps radical mindset of not conforming to the culture of grumbling, to instead actually choose to enjoy the job you have, or take steps to pursue other opportunities?

Perhaps your commitments vary. Maybe you have people to look after, elderly relatives, or a variety of responsibilities or maybe you feel relatively ‘care free’ or at a loose end, and managing your day to day and the stresses of your everyday life feel more than you can manage right now.

When it comes to work – life balance, are you committed to playing your part to make it happen? This doesn’t necessarily mean working fewer hours, having work from home days, or taking more time off. It does mean being responsible and accountable for the time you do have, so that you can make the most of your days, right here and right now. Whether you work for someone else, in an office, from your own home, or travel as part of your job, you will have ‘down time’ when you’re at home and need to draw some demarcations and boundaries to have ‘set aside’ time for other things, over and above taking care of yourself physically and mentally.

When you wait for the weekend, once it arrives do you actually savour and use that time well? Or do you just plod on wearily into a new week? Do you spend even 5 minutes each day doing something you enjoy, however simple, whether that be some reading, art, a crossword, enjoying nature, investing in your friendships and relationships with family and taking time to consider how you can live more deeply and fully?

We can’t save up all our dreams for an unknown time in the future. People often say, when I retire, when I have the time to do such and such, then I will……read more books, travel more, spend time with family, be relaxed, write a book, play an instrument, read the newspaper in the sunshine, listen to the birds, give something back….

One day a while back, I had a little ‘brainstorm’ and wrote down a list of the things I’d possibly say to the question ‘What would you like to do when you retire?’ Maybe you have a mental list of what you think you’d like to do. But you will most likely be more energetic now than later, even if you are counting on having more time for such pursuits in this unknown future. I hear these kind of things a lot from older colleagues…they seem to store up their dreams in the future, when they could be doing something about them right now. 

That doesn’t mean taking a year or a few years off to travel the world….it could be factoring in your passions into your every day life. After work, maybe you can’t travel far, but you could go for a walk, watch a travel documentary, or plan a weekend trip somewhere. 

That book you think you want to write….why not start scribbling down a few ideas today? Or why not establish a more regular blogging routine where you can and will write, and enjoy being a writer now? 

All those books you plan on reading. Do you have five minutes in the day to start? The endless time and relaxation you foresee….why not take half an hour to yourself and enjoy the simple rest?

The time you want to pursue your creative side….you can do something creative everyday…even for a little bit of a time….you just need to be aware of the things you enjoy and factor them in. What are they for you? Dancing, photography, sport, reading, leisure, going for long walks, pottering about in the garden, meeting new people, joining a club, speaking to family on the phone, drawing, painting, exploring museums, learning a language, helping others, volunteering, doing something meaningful in your community, writing about your life experiences, trying a new cuisine, mentoring a younger person, taking time to stop and ‘smell the roses’? It doesn’t need to be grand or worthy of announcement in the eyes of the world, it just needs to be meaningful to you and sometimes the most simple things are those that touch us the most. 

So when you think about a healthier work life balance, as well as thinking about the bigger more structural changes you might want to make, such as patterns of working, hours, location, the actual job you do, etc, think also of the gradual, daily and consistent things you can bring into your life to do the things you love. You might say ‘but when will I find the time?’ The answer is precisely in the question…you need to *find* it….and in order to find, you must *seek*, look for opportunities, pray for them, carve out time, be aware of the time you have right now, and the power you have to choose to be responsible for it and to take a step back to consider what actually is meaningful and worthwhile to be spending your time on. You don’t have time to read books? What about while waiting for your train or on your lunchbreak? Everyone is so busy, it’s hard to invest in relationships…so are you willing to leave them to chance, or ask someone if you can set aside time just to catch up with them whether face to face or over the phone? You might have time later on, but will you still have that person in your life? 

You might be waiting and hoping for certain special things to happen in your life, but you don’t know what will transpire, and you don’t know whether they might themselves bring additional challenges with them. I know of friends who were discontented in their single years only to find that things actually became more difficult when they got married. I know of people who really wanted children and were bitter or sad when their friends had babies, but in the end years later they did too. And some friends who had the happy relationships early on, and are still together and happy and had great experiences having kids and growing their family, later down the track are facing challenges of coping with the stresses of a child with disorders and health problems. Others who wanted to travel, got their chance, and then kept desiring the next thing. Be content now. Choose to be. It’s perfectly natural to hope and dream, and there are certain things that are beyond our control and part of a much bigger, more incredible picture that we will never fully understand. But there are things that are within our sphere of influence, choice, control and decision right now. So yes, hope, dream, plan….but also invest….your time, talents and heart in the things you love and that add something to this world that will bring you joy and maybe even help someone else too. x