The pandemic hastens on. If you are feeling lonely, struggling, not sure what to do, for whatever circumstances you are feeling stuck at home or left behind while others around you go on living life or seem to be having all the good times, friend, don’t compare.
This advice is as much for me as it is for you. We can only ever live one day at a time. Your journey is completely different to that other person’s with whom you compare. Maybe things are going great for them and not for you, well, lift your focus. Change the direction of your thoughts away from comparison that might just hurt your heart and bring you down and think about what you can do with your life today….even if that thing is just to slow down and to rest.
You matter. I believe you matter to God. I believe that Jesus Christ Is able to help you, and me, and you just need to turn away from what is wrong, including what is wrong inside of you, and ask Him for help. He loves you. And even if you don’t believe, find comfort in knowing that the measure of your life is not a measure against anyone else’s. Take this day as it comes. Look for joy in the small things. Be happy for other people, be kind to yourself and don’t compare. Think that how you are feeling might just be similar to how someone else is feeling right now. Can you reach out to them? Let them know they’re not alone? Can you reach out to someone you don’t even know, someone suffering, some charity? Give as you live. Take things a moment at a time. Be thankful. Stay safe and call out for the Name of Love, the One Who will see you through. ❤ x
When I started this blog in 2017 I never could have imagined that just a few years later I’d be writing blogs to encourage people through a global pandemic. I don’t think any of us could have imagined such a thing. If you look back through my ‘archives’ of posts to early 2020, you would see posts all about 2020 vision, hopeful posts and plans to perhaps travel. In the UK the big news story at the time was Brexit and I had in mind that I’d like if possible to travel to the European countries that I hadn’t yet got the chance to visit. In Australia I think the big story was about the bush fires. Oh my, friends, how much we have seen and heard of since then!
I don’t know which country you live in, but the whole world in 2020 was coming to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, after that there have been variations in how individual countries, and even states, deal with things. It has been a challenging time for many. Just as we were feeling that maybe if we can get through winter there might be more settled days ahead, we hear of a new variant, Omicron I believe it is called, that has taken hold in some countries and might possibly be the next variant of concern leading to another pandemic.
I won’t get into the ‘ins and outs’ of that as I realise my readers may have different opinions, but on a personal level I just want to reach out to you with some encouragement.
You’re not alone. I realise these are uncertain days, but try to lift up your minds and thoughts to what is Greater. Find hope in your everyday in some small way. I have written a whole series of blog posts, possibly nearing a hundred posts on surviving the pandemic, so no doubt there will be something that I wrote back then that will be applicable or helpful to you today.
Today, know that you’re not alone. You are loved. My hope is in Jesus Christ, the source of True Love. Even though in this world there is trouble, He has overcome the world. He will walk with us through it.
No matter what you think or believe right now, just know that if you are finding things challenging right now, you are not alone. Try to move slowly through your day. It’s easy to say, right? It’s easy to say try not to worry when as human beings we are prone to worry, but just think of all the tools and techniques you have learned over the past year or two in the pandemic (or more, through your life) and remind yourself of how far you have come, and keep going. If you are doing well right now, remind yourself that there are many others who aren’t and seek in some small way each day to show kindness, encouragement and love.
Even on the blogging community we can do this, we can help and encourage one another with our words – words are so powerful, life and death are in the power of the tongue so think of how incredible it could be if we all speak life to each other and encourage each other in these days.
Talk to someone. Share your burdens, ask for help if need be.
Revisit your hobbies or try something new if you don’t have any. It is important to keep our minds occupied because we hear so much in the news that can affect us negatively. It’s important to be informed and wise about keeping ourselves and others safe, but it’s also important to be aware of how things affect us.
Take it one day at a time, one step at a time.
That’s my word of encouragement, because I know we all need it.
For many people, this year has been somewhat of a blur. Perhaps you yourself are in need of some clarity and encouragement, especially as we head into the winter season of this year.
I wonder how you are feeling about it all right now, how life is for you? If I think of my own life, and my circle of friends, I know that people are in very different places in themselves. While we’ve all had this common situation of a global pandemic as the backing track of 2020, for some people, the volume has been turned up loud and they’ve been unable to find the means of turning it down, while for others, it is an inconvenient and annoying hum in the background of their life as they press ahead with their own dreams, goals and plans somehow.
I can think of friends who have had ups and downs this year. They’ve had some positives but also some hard times. Some among us have had to spend months at a time on our own with no human or animal contact, while others have flourished this year and some have recently had new additions to their families with babies being born this month. One friend has become a dad for the second time, and another has become an uncle for the first time! Others that I know have embarked upon new relationships or got married or still managed to fit in a travel adventure here and there. Yet at the same time, some have seen their mental health struggles continue or worsen, some have had job uncertainty and experienced loneliness. And while we head into the Christmas season, a season of Advent in which we look towards the first Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself was Born into inhospitable, frightening and unsettling times (and for many, myself included HE alone is the Hope and Light in the darkness), are welcomed to enter into relationship with Him now and know the tangible Peace and Love of His Presence (and look forwards to the certainty of His Return) this time can be particularly difficult in magnifying the differences and difficulties among and between us.
It is a time of year when the nights grow longer, darker and colder. It is a time of year when at any other time, the contrasts between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ would still be stark. Yet in this pandemic year, we face all sorts of added challenges. There are restrictions upon our meeting, upon our usual ‘festivities’ and some families, in fact many families are sadly facing loss and loneliness on a number of fronts. Financially, many may be suffering or struggling to make ends meet, and loneliness has become an epidemic of its own.
If this year has been a bit of a blur for you and you have a sense of dread about this season, my eternal hope is that you will look to the Light and Transforming Love of Jesus Christ Who came into the darkness….for you.
And while that is always, I hope, the heart of my message, I know that there are many among you who want or need to take that message at your own pace and time, and in the meantime want some solid practical day to day encouragement, and I understand and respect that.
Don’t let the year end without taking time to acknowledge what you have come through, and what you have accomplished. You may never win an award for it, no one may ever think it worth reading in a newsletter, but if you know it is something meaningful to you then take time to acknowledge and even celebrate it.
You don’t need to have contributed to the discovery of a vaccine or raised a lot of money for worthy causes to feel you have accomplished something this year. Perhaps your accomplishment is to have got out of bed each day, to have given time and attention towards your mental health and wellbeing, to have continued working to support yourself and / or your family, to have stayed indoors and kept other people safe, to have been kind and considerate towards those around you, to have lived a quiet life, to have read a book, kept your living space tidy, started therapy, come off medication, admitted you need help, reached out to a friend, donated to charity, encouraged other people, encouraged yourself, put time towards a hobby, attended online church for the first time, or been consistent in doing similar, to have checked in on your neighbours, to have sought the good and wellbeing of other people, to have not given up on yourself or your life.
Achievements or accomplishments can look very different to each of us. But sometimes the small things are the things that matter in a big way.
Why don’t you give yourself that encouragement and take a few moments now, or this week, or in this season as we approach the end of the year to write down or think about a few things which you have done this year, whether or not you think you’ve done them well.
Encourage yourself, and look forwards with hope and perhaps even vision in what may be a joyful, or an extremely painful and difficult season for you.
You matter. A Light shines for *you*, a Love has come, for *you*. You matter. Give yourself some encouragement, friend, because you matter too.
I’ve touched upon aspects of self care and wellbeing in previous sections of this guide, including eating and sleeping well, taking walks, looking after your mental health and including exercise into your routine, and making sure that you have enough supplies for your health conditions such as medicines.
However, it’s a good idea to remember to look at your health and wellbeing in a holistic way and to think of what the main things that might affect you could be.
As we near the end of November, I’ve noticed a few things in my own life, so I thought I’d share them with you.
Firstly, I feel like hibernating. I’ve noticed that my body, mind and mood are being affected with this wintery season. It gets darker a lot quicker, light levels are lower, and there is a drop in temperature. I feel like with the natural cycle of the seasons, my body too is winding down and preparing for rest. Actually, if I didn’t have to work I’d probably be napping during the day like a curled up little hedgehog! 🙂 I’ve given out a lot of good advice such as maintaining exercise and healthy eating habits, and getting enough rest and sleep as well as staying active, but when it comes to it although I have been trying to do these things I am feeling a little sluggish and looking forward to not having to do very much.
Secondly, the desire for hibernation is coupled with a season of activity – which may not be such a bad thing, but it also means having to be realistic about what I can actually manage, and to pace myself. I’m blessed to have friends to meet and events to attend and things to prepare for, but it’s not always easy to ‘keep up’. As our bodies are perhaps slowing down and preparing for a time of rest we seem to try to pack in as much festivities as we can, and on the one hand that’s a good thing in making sure we don’t end up in a ‘slump’ hiding away from the world and perhaps giving in to low moods, but on the other hand it also means that we don’t have endless amounts of energy and so to stay well we need to pace ourselves and to be wise and selective in how we use our time as well as caring for our bodies and not over indulging.
Thirdly, it is the season for coughs, colds, sore throats and infections! And it’s hard to avoid these altogether, but it is something we can try to prepare for in advance.
So, what are the takeaways or key points that you can glean from all of this?
Accept that your body may react to the changing of the seasons by naturally slowing down, and that this may leave you feeling a little sluggish, tired or lethargic.
Pace yourself and try to maintain as much balance as possible between rest and play.
Listen to your body, and if you can slow down and wind up on big work projects, pace yourself with social events, don’t overpromise or overcommit to doing things, be flexible, be kind to yourself and manage the expectations of yourself and others and prepare a winter survival kit for coughs, colds, and also for any other important aspects of your life and safety. You might want to also have a winter survival kit in your car just in case of emergencies!
In summary, be realistic and take it easy. There may be a good reason that nature slows down at wintertime and it may be good for us to do so too.
Do you ever get excited at the chance to help someone in need? Do you feel encouraged when you see your community get together to help others? I certainly do. It’s one thing when we individually try to do what we can to help others, but there is something just so wonderful when people combine efforts for the greater good.
I was talking to my friend earlier on in the month about helping homeless people. There is such a need all around us, and you’ll be particularly aware of it if you are an urban dweller because you are probably more likely to see homeless people on the streets more frequently than those who live in suburban areas and in the countryside. Yet, even in cities the issues of homelessness can be ‘hidden in plain sight’, and even when they are within our view we know we cannot possibly help everyone and so at times we become ‘numb’ to the plight of others because we feel it is in our best interests to keep an emotional distance when we know we are not always in the position to help.
A few days ago it was reported in the local news that someone had died in a car park overnight due to the freezing temperatures. One night the temperature was minus ten degrees and homeless charities warned that it was imperative to contact them and notify them if any member of the public noticed a homeless person sleeping on the street because there was no way they would otherwise make it through the night because their bodies wouldn’t survive the cold and the sudden fall in temperature. It is always a sad thing for people to be out on the streets with nowhere to call home, but at certain times of the year due to inclement weather it can be deadly.
We individually try to do the little we can do bit by bit and that can often make us wonder whether people in the greatest need will actually be helped.
It is therefore a breath of fresh air when people come together and unify their efforts to help other people. I am quite excited about this as the main Central Station in my city has teamed up with the main homelessness charity and is having a collection today within the Station concourse. Apparently the footfall per day through the station is 100,000 people. The charity has provided a list of things they need to provide to homeless people and many of the items on the list are very very affordable for most of us. So just imagine if everyone passing through today contributes a bit how much that will all add up to and in the right hands of the people who have spent decades helping homeless people professionally then we know that things will definitely make a difference in some way. That makes me feel encouraged.
Isn’t it wonderful when we can team up our efforts to make a greater change? Can you think of anything happening in your area or can you think of something that you can organise and get others on board with? With everyone doing their little bit, great things can happen. Think about ‘passing it on’ if you hear of good initiatives and of ‘paying it forward’ to those in need who aren’t in the position to give anything back in return.
Even if we can’t help for some particular reason like not being able to be in a certain place at a certain time, we can still ‘pass it on’ and tell our friends, colleagues, families and they can also do the same.
So be encouraged this season, friends, to ‘Pass It On, and Pay It Forward’. Peace.
In previous posts in this Winter Survival Guide I suggested trying to on the one hand say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, and also to know when it is best for you to say ‘no’ to things that other people ask you to do, and to have the confidence to do that where appropriate.
However, what if youwant to say yes to so many things, many or most of which might be your own suggestions for yourself? What if you actually need to say ‘no’ to you?! 🙂
Maybe you’re in tip top health, are feeling vibrant, exuberant and want to ‘do it all’ and ‘tick off’ as many suggestions on your ‘bucket list’ as possible this season. Or maybe like me you’ve previously gone through long drawn out seasons of poorer health and haven’t been able to do much at all, and you want a season of contrast to your hard times, and to ‘make the most of it’ now that you are feeling better than before and heading in the right direction.
Whatever the case may be for you in your particular circumstances, and whether the ‘invitations’ to do things are coming from yourself and / or others, it is important to take a breath and remind yourself that you can’t do it all. Now, I’m not wanting to put a dampener on the proceedings, or take the fun from your party, and I’m certainly not saying that you and I aren’t capable and shouldn’t be making the most of things. What I am saying though is that none of us were designed to be full steam ahead all of the time without a break, and if in your excitement you over-plan to do things, or over-commit to what you want to be involved with, then at some stage you are going to hit a proverbial brick wall and come to an unwanted halt.
Even the fiercest ‘go getters’ among you need to recharge every now and then, so don’t try to do it all, or if you do, give yourself space to be able to reorganise, reschedule, change your mind and allow yourself to say no to your original plans in such a way that you won’t be letting yourself or anyone else down. Basically be flexible and don’t wear yourself into the ground by trying to be ‘superman’ / ‘superwoman’.
Sometimes Less is More:
As excited as you might be to cram it all in to this wonderful season, sometimes less truly is more. By being more selective in how you use your time, you will be able to deepen the quality of your experiences and get so much more out of them in a more meaningful way. It’s the difference between seeing all the bright lights everywhere and taking time to focus on the flickering flame of a candle in a dark room – there is a different internal response and experience from both exciting and meditative experiences and we need a balance of both in our lives.
Give yourself permission to enjoy the simple things, get rid of the ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) and enjoy the beauty of this season without overstretching yourself or trying to do it all. Don’t overfill your calendar! After all, after the excitement has passed you will want to be rested, refreshed and ready to head into a brand New Year!
“What is a reverse advent calendar?” I hear you ask 🙂
Traditionally when we think about ‘Advent’ we are referring to a season observed by many Christians that is symbolic of the expectancy of Christ’s first Coming into the world, and the preparation and celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ at Christmas, and the return of Jesus at His Second Coming, which we still expectantly await.
Advent calendars fill the shops, and most people think of them as a kind of a ‘countdown’ to Christmas. They pop open little cardboard flaps on a cardboard advent calendar, and then pop a little festive shaped chocolate into their mouths, and so it goes. Advent calendars have over the past few years become much more elaborate though with people having the option of spending a small fortune on high end advent calendars that contain everything from chocolates, teas, beauty products and the like.
A ‘reverse advent calendar’ turns the commercialised idea of an advent calendar on its head. Jesus came in meekness and humility and love, and He came to serve other people and to give. We use advent calendars as a way of ‘treating ourselves’. To reverse this would be to give to other people.
One way in which to do this is as you ‘count down’ to Christmas, each day, or for whatever time frame suits you and is most convenient, collect an item that you can give to someone who is in need and without the blessings of food and warmth that you and I enjoy and often take for granted.
For example, you could collect items for a food bank, a soup kitchen or a homeless charity, and once you have collected them all, you have a collection of things that you can give away.
Perhaps this is something that you could do with friends or family, to encourage a community spirit and to help each other think of other people who are in need this season. And if you feel financial pressures yourself, just think that buying a tin of soup is probably cheaper than buying a box of Christmas crackers or novelty toys, and will go a lot further in making a difference. You could even pick up an extra item when you do your own shopping and you will hardly notice the ‘dent’ in your purse or wallet if you do.
If you are in the position to do so, you and your friends and family could collect some change each day and at the end of the time you could contribute that money to a worthwhile cause or charity.
Is this something that sounds like a good idea to you, and would you try it out with your friends and family or by yourself? Maybe it is something you could introduce into your workplace and see how many other people you can get on board. A little goes a long way, and it will make difference to someone this year if we consider ‘reversing’ our advent calendars to celebrate what should be a season of giving rather than getting. Be blessed. x
There is a beautiful line in Max Ehrmann’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ (things to be desired), that encourages us to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans.
The concept is so simple, and yet equally profound. We desire certain things in life, and we give our lives to pursuing, obtaining and experiencing them. And yet, once obtained we are so quick to move on to the next thing, just as butterfly or a honey bee might flit from flower to flower.
How many of us take the time to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans? We rarely seem to be satisfied, but perhaps we don’t give ourselves time to truly appreciate and be grateful for our lives as we hurry on to experience something bigger or better.
Perhaps you are reading this and inwardly agreeing to the sentiment behind this statement: “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”. It is a nice thought, an encouraging quote, but what will you and I actually do with it? And how can this Winter Survival Guide prompt us to use the time we have this season to do just that?
1. Review your year:
We could just sit in quietness and enjoy pondering our achievements, but can we appreciate and enjoy them in a more focused and practical way before moving on to the next thing or things in the year to come?
A good and simple starting point could be to set aside some time, to take a pen and a piece of paper and sketch out the important things you have done, experienced and learned in each of the months of 2019 (leaving room for the time you still have left of this calendar year).
It doesn’t matter from an outside perspective whether the things you have captured seem ‘significant’ or not, the thing that matters is that they are important to you, in your life’s journey, no matter how small or inconsequential you might think they would seem to someone else. That’s not what matters, what matters is the life you have lived this year and the lessons you have learned.
What could be some points to ponder as you consider each month in turn? Perhaps we could start with something like this:
What was the main thing I learned in that month?
Why was this important?
What do I consider I achieved (no matter how big or small, it could be as seemingly simple as sticking to a routine, surviving a challenge or showing kindness to someone)?
How have I grown from these experiences and what will I take forwards?
2. Enjoy your achievements:
As you reflect upon the specific achievements and experiences of each month of the year gone by, take time to ponder them, to be grateful for the lessons you have learned, how you have changed and grown as a person and to enjoy the fact that you are living life right now and learning new things now. Take it in, and celebrate it in a way that is personal to you, even if it is quietly, and even if it is ‘giving yourself a pat on the back’ for having got through a tough time – achievements aren’t all about gold stars and certificates.
Consider writing down and naming the ‘treasures’ that you have gleaned from this year’s experience of life before you move on to the next thing. A life well lived involves appreciating the life that we are living.
3. As well as your plans:
It is a time for looking forward as well as for reflecting and enjoying the moment. Maybe you can spend some time by yourself discovering what has really been meaningful and significant to you this year, understand what is valuable and begin to plan ahead as you reach towards your future achievements and make plans for how you will accomplish them.
This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year. I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!
Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.
At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.
This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.
I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.
I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.
Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.
As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!
As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.
Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.
I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.
This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.
Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.
Some small Christmas markets and stalls have popped up early in my city; I went for a wander down to see them this afternoon, it was fairly busy, a bit cold, buy boy did the food smell good – I didn’t buy anything, just browsing, but still it is quite special to take in the atmosphere.