Tag Archives: Peace

Surviving the Pandemic Together: Words of Encouragement (13): *Grief and disbelief*.

*Grief and disbelief*.


We are hearing everyday in the news and social media, and through other people, of the rising numbers of people affected by Coronavirus. We hear constant updates on the death tolls in our own and other countries. The scale of this tragedy is beyond comprehension, and we find ways to cope, to perhaps become ‘numb’ to it, or to hold it all at a distance.


However, we don’t just hear about the numbers, we are also reading stories about the real lives, seeing faces and names, and insights into the families that are grieving.
I know that among you there are some people who have either heard of people known to them in some way who have either recovered from the virus or who have died as a result.


That’s when it begins to hit home. That’s when there is a need for a Peace beyond ourselves, for reassurance, and comfort.


To any of you who are in this situation right now, I hope you can find the space to grieve, and to find comfort and Peace in this situation, and support from loved ones and friends.
For the rest of us for whom these realities are thankfully still at arms length and are other people’s stories, we will still be experiencing all sorts of thoughts and emotions including the disbelief of what we are actually living through collectively.


Last year, we heard of the deaths of many celebrities. This year, well….there really are no words, are there?


Perhaps we can take comfort in seeking and turning to a Peace and comfort that Is greater than and transcends all that is happening on earth right now, the Peace of Christ. Perhaps, we can also grow stronger as a community and be the listening ears for our friends, the shoulders to cry on, and the support that is much needed in sad and worrying times like this.

Peace I give

The Dream of a Peaceful Mind…

Have you ever seen those pictures in magazines or online, of people relaxing in their ‘dream home’, on their ‘dream holiday’ or with their ‘dream family’ in their ideal ‘dream life’?

We all know they are posed by models, but what kind of image do they present to us? The people invariably look relaxed, peaceful, calm, serene, content or happy.

We look at such pictures and we are only partly taken in by the blissful surroundings. The other thing that resonates with us is how peaceful and calm the people in such pictures look.

Isn’t this part of our dreams for ourselves? We have all experienced situations when we have looked externally to someone or something to make us feel better, happier, calmer or more at peace. Have you also experienced the accompanying disappointment when things don’t quite match up to your ideals? Perhaps the family holiday you planned didn’t turn out quite like the ones in the pictures, and instead you picked up suitcases of stress, frustration and weariness. Maybe that new outfit or piece of clothing made you feel happy for a moment but soon the novelty of it wore off, and it felt old after a while. Maybe escaping by yourself to a quiet place in nature was also accompanied by not so pleasant weather, by insects and other less peaceful aspects of the great outdoors.

Peace of mind and happiness only partly relates to our happenings. When we envisage the life of our dreams, we need to take this into account. Some situations in life are just bad and we need to find a way out of or through them, there’s no doubt about that. However, perhaps we have gone through some tough times or struggles or inconveniences in life and have managed to order our external worlds and yet that hasn’t necessarily brought us the peace of mind that we have been searching for.

One example of this in my own life is when I bought my first flat, moved in, and then had a bit of a breakdown and c-PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Things like this happen in life sometimes, and even if you are fortunate enough to get through life without any major challenges, you still have your own mind to manage on a day to day basis.

Whatever your journey has been so far, as we step into the new, we all could benefit from greater peace of mind.

This means being aware of the internal reactions we have, and finding a way to manage or overcome some of the more difficult things. It might take a bit of work, but the kind of mental resilience that helps us live more mentally peaceful lives is worth the time, effort and sometimes the tears and facing up to our fears.

It’s an on-going effort for all of us as humans in a world where we suffer, we are faced with ‘information overload’ sometimes, we face stress and challenges, yet as we move through this new year into what we hope to be one where our ‘dreams come true’ let us remind ourselves and each other that this does not depend merely on our circumstances but also on how we think. Is this the year for you to seek help and support to enable you to manage some of the difficult things in your mind? Is it the year to build up on what you have been learning in creating resilience? Is it the year to seek out inspiration? Is it the year to inspire from all that you have learned? Wherever you find yourself, things can be better, your mind can become a calmer and more peaceful place and it is worth putting in the effort daily to make it so. x

 

The world can be a noisy place…try to find your quiet spot…

We live in a time when no matter how calm one’s own circumstances may be (and this in itself can be hard to come by), we are on an almost daily basis plugged into a stream of information via technology that tells us how chaotic the world in which we live is.

It’s almost unavoidable if you connect with society on any level. From small community groups with their own internal ‘politics’ to large scale international conflict there will always be ‘noise’ in the world. You might be sitting down on your own to have a quiet lunch break and yet the moment you log in to your online device you will see some news article or another with information that is difficult to know how to handle. Today we have news of Australian bush fires, missiles and conflict between the US and Iran and news of strife within the UK’s Royal family and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s decision to take a step back.

We risk ‘compassion fatigue’ and getting stressed out not only by our own, but also by other people’s problems.

The world, my friends, is a noisy place.

Do you find this yourself today? Are you aware of the fine balance between your own well being and being informed, concerned and taking action to help other people? There’s only so much that we can do, and it’s important to make a difference for the better in the world where and when we can. Our innate human compassion compels us. When we feel helpless we can pray, donate, get educated, advocate, share information. Many people like to get involved in discussions or take action and raise awareness where they can.

But don’t forget the balance in this noisy world. Some of you may be right in the midst of some of these troubles right now, and that is heart-breaking.  But wherever you are in this noisy world, it is important to find places of peace where you can. Seek Peace and pursue it. And sometimes the first and most profound step towards that is to be still.

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The now and the not yet…a noticeable shift…

The past few years have been characterised by exactly that: the past. Despite all of my determined efforts to push past life’s hurts and to build up my life, my body, mind, heart and spirit simply could not do this. Life had other lessons for me to learn, which in a sense meant being broken open for all of the hurt to begin pouring out.

The past few years have been intense at times: I went through a process of a lot of the pain and hurt and anxiety and depression that had been stuffed down and bottled up within me, ‘exploding’ to the surface in what felt like a breakdown. I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress, severe clinical depression and severe generalised anxiety disorder. It was pretty awful, and it had felt that way for a very, very long time indeed.

Do you notice that I said ‘had’? That is monumental. I notice even at the early stages of this new year a shift within me – within my thinking and within my heart. I may not be completely healed or whole or well or recovered yet, but the nightmare of explosions within my mind keeping me trapped and frightened in this unreality between past and present has in fact passed. Or at least it feels like that just now, and that is incredible. I didn’t know if my mind and heart would ever feel calm again and at one point I was feeling like giving up.

The noticeable shift is that my heart and mind are naturally inclining towards the now and the not yet rather than to the past. The past difficulties I have faced now are part of a bigger narrative, they are being processed, redefined and finding their place and in working on this I am allowing myself to find my true identity and to walk in it.

And as naturally as if I had always been this way (which I never had) I am able to ponder the present and the future (the ‘now and next’ as my mum says) without feeling crippled, pulled back or limited by the pain of the past.

It is perhaps for many people a simple thing, taken for granted to be in the now and the next, but it is a beautiful miracle for me, one which I would like to pause and to appreciate with you right now, even as we move into the not yet.

Be blessed. x

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“Travelling Teaches You” (7).

people gathered inside house sitting on sofa
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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you the importance of Home. Perhaps this in itself is a challenge to some of us. It is beautiful and inspiring to get away and explore the world. However, there are inevitably challenges and annoyances along the way no matter what we do. Moving from place to place, living out of a suitcase at times, being in unfamiliar territory or out of our comfort zone, or simply not being somewhere that is our ‘own’, of living in a constant state of the temporary, of moving, shifting, changing, can give us a deeper longing for and appreciation of Home. Yet, perhaps some of us, especially those of you who have spent years ‘on the road’ (something I haven’t yet done) find the idea of ‘Home’ a strange and transient concept, and maybe you don’t have a place where you feel ‘rooted’ to.

As much as I love adventure and…

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Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

close up of tree against sky
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Go green

Working in an office, a factory, on site, or even potentially from a home office depending on how you have set things up, can leave you feeling a bit detached and disconnected from the beauty of life, if you’re not careful.

I think one of the most uplifting and refreshing things in life is to be in the midst of nature. There is something about the slow, steady, seasonal and gentle pace of watching life grow that helps take us out of the frenzied hurry we often let ourselves be drawn into.

This lunchtime, I walked 3 times around my building, as it is a lovely sunny day with blue skies which can be a rare occurrence here. I sometimes go to the park, but it is a longer walk, and I have to cross traffic, etc. to get there. However, even though I didn’t get to the park, there are trees nearby, and some greenery edging the circumference of our office building area. Maybe not a lot, but enough to contribute to the satisfaction and peace that feeling more connected with nature, even just a little more, can bring.

Maybe you are in a busy central location and don’t have much greenery nearby. Maybe you work in an industrial, built up area, where everything seems to be “bricks and windows, windows and bricks” in the words of Willy Lowman (‘Death of a Salesman’ – Arthur Miller). That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce some indoor plants to your work space, maybe some succulents that are low maintenance – I keep meaning to find a cactus and give it a little home on my desk at work. These small changes can be good for us over time, and bring little bursts of happiness into our day, leaving us feeling even just that little more connected with that beautiful, natural and peaceful way of life that being near nature, and greenery brings.

Anxiety and going to church.

It’s Sunday morning, 9.24am, and ‘Life as it happens to be’ today sees me seeking God for help with anxiety. There’s something about being in the Presence of the Living God, and worshipping Him with His people gathered together on a Sunday, listening to the Truth of the Word spoken, and nourishing our spirits that brings a satisfaction and deep connection with our Creator. In times of worship, amidst the crescendo of praise to our Great God, I can close my eyes and feel like I am connecting one to One with the Lord Jesus. Being part of the family and ‘Body of Christ’ as believers is a beautiful thing, despite the challenges that families do face, it is a connection that is spiritual, and borne out of the pure agape Love of Christ Who unites us. 

That being said, the process of managing anxiety, of managing all the practical things it takes to get ready in the morning, prepare mentally and simply get out the door, step into the world and get there on time which can be a big struggle for people with anxiety that isn’t the case for people who don’t have this ‘bug in the system’ with regards to fight / flight, our nervous systems going haywire, and our thoughts looking for ways to ‘get out’ of things, which could be, and as it is in my case, the result of previous difficult and highly stressful experiences in childhood.

We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing’ in Philippians, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving so that we can experience the Peace of God in Christ that transcends all human understanding. This is our standard, our comfort and our encouragement. But I do acknowledge and give a ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters who also struggle with anxiety, crowds and social situations, walking down the street and maintaining composure internally and mentally, that we are humans, we do stumble about, trip over our own feet and get stressed when we can’t find our keys or don’t know what to wear and all the time wanting to honour God but knowing we are kind of hopeless at this thing called life. Is it just me, or is anyone with me? Maybe you see me, or I see you in church and we look like we ‘have it together’. We don’t. Trust me. No one does. That’s why we need Jesus. 

And as I try to encourage myself through this post, I’d like to also encourage and remind you that our God Is wonderful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and steadfast and unwavering in His Perfect Love for us. Jesus Christ IS The Good Shepherd, His sheep know His Voice, and we follow Him. He leads us, gently, tenderly, and He also trains us rigorously sometimes to live lives of Righteousness, only possible because of Who He Is and what He has accomplished at the cross – Victory!

Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder that no matter where we go, or run to or try to hide or what we might be doing, God Is there, right there with us. Always. So even if anxiety gets the better of you and you stay at home, your Loving Saviour is right there with you, drawing you whether or not that be in a church service, on a mountain, in the quiet of your own space, TO HIMSELF. 

Yet, in the gospels He also bids us to Come…to Come to Him….and also to get up, to rise and follow Him…one step at a time, knowing that He goes before us and Is our rear-guard of Protection. What a wonderful Saviour.

What about you? Do you have any experiences that you can encourage the rest of the body of Christ / His family with? 

Lastly, I sometimes need a bit of a musical encouragement to get me going, so I have been listening to this this morning. xx

 

Take Time to Notice before the Winds of Change blow in again…

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Photography is a particular hobby of mine that allows me to intentionally slow down and focus on the world around me. To caress moments in time, and capture something of the essence of them, in a world that seems to be incessantly rushing by. There are some rare moments when you capture something that even touches your own heart, and although I am not a professional photographer, I do try to improve and the photographs above, especially the one on the right are a couple of those rare gems that I am particularly fond of. 

They speak to me of the beauty of nature in its changing seasons, and the delicate, even fragile passing of time, the life giving way to death and the sowing of seeds carried almost serendipitously by the wind for new life to be planted wherever it will. 

I wonder if you, like me, crave solitude or at least times of refreshing in a world that is full of schedules and ‘to do’ lists? Time to fully live the season that you are in, and to appreciate it, in this particular moment. There is beauty and grace in the summer and the winter seasons of our lives. And yet, we fear the passing of time, but do we use our time, our lives wisely? 

I don’t know about you, but as serendipitous as a seed falling to the ground may seem, I believe that there is a greater, higher, fascinating order to life. I see so much design and purpose and beautiful intention in nature, that I can’t but allow myself to be breath taken by the seemingly simplest of things. When I really take time to be still, to wonder and ponder at life, I know in my heart that there is a meaning and an order behind it all. We live chaotic lives, but to a great degree we choose to. We choose to close our eyes and our ears to the Love and Peace gently, persuasively calling out our names, compelling us to know that we do have  a place in this grand design, and that we don’t have to live our lives as rootless, purposeless flowers caught and tossed by every wind of change in life. 

There was a time in life when I felt helplessly alone, rootless, tossed by tempest and storms beyond my control, striving to find Peace, but that Peace always alluding me. And yet, now I have an unshakeable Root, a place of belonging, a Love unfailing, and confidence that despite the passing of time, the fragility of my being and of my life, I am held securely both now and for eternity by a God Who Knows, Who Cares, Who sent Jesus Christ in Whose Life I am hidden in God, to die for me, to forgive me, to save my lost soul, and give a purpose and meaning to every fleeting moment of my fragile life. And as I think of using my time, each season, I am compelled to tell you about His Love, His Certainty, His Security, His Peace and Hope, that perhaps someway, some how, by His Grace, these seeds of love will be carried by the gentle, persistently loving winds of the Holy Spirit to take root in your heart and change your life forever, or if you know and love Him already, to deepen your roots in Christ so that you may life a life, each moment, fruitful, flourishing and at Peace in Him, when it is your time to pass from this fleeting life into to the next unshakeable one. xx