The world needs you.
Following on from my recent series (which is awaiting a final concluding blog post) on my personal / writing retreat, I have a few words that will hopefully encourage you that even if you don’t feel you have the time to take a retreat, even if that is in your own home, and even if it is a mini retreat over a weekend, you can plan what I’d like to call ‘mini mini-retreats’…or maybe micro retreats if you prefer 🙂
This is something you can achievably plan to incorporate into your week, your weekend or even your daily life. What do I mean by a micro retreat? It’s simply time that you have set aside to focus on an aspect of your life that is important to you, giving it the care and attention you long to. You may, like myself, only have rare occasions where you can deeply delve into creative projects you are involved in where over a space of a few days or even a week you are immersed in that creative experience and set aside time without having to worry about other commitments. However, on a regular basis, you can still ‘go on retreat’ in a focused and meaningful way, even if the breadth and depth of your experience differs from a longer time spent in this way. In some ways, because it is shorter and more focused time, you may reap unexpected benefits and glean new insights into your self and life.
So, think about what you’d like to focus on. Like me, you may have many different aspects of life that are important to you that you’d like to give time care and attention to. Perhaps self care, meditative time in nature, prayer, reading the Bible, reading generally, blog writing, spending time alone, painting, writing, photography, journaling, model making, music, or simply just getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can be flexible with how you fit such times into your daily and weekly life. All you need to do is set aside, protect and honour that time. In business speak, ‘ring fence’ that time for a specific purpose. Whether it is 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, or half a day, you can modify and change things to suit your own life. But once you’re in that time, treat it as you would a retreat – no distractions, find a place by yourself, undisturbed, make a warm cosy drink and spend that time giving attention to that one specific thing that matters to you. You can have many ‘mini mini retreats’ or micro retreats in a month, week or even a day. Let it be a time you make special for yourself, and give your full attention to that purpose, with gratitude, intent and a deep focus. And most of all enjoy the time, and seek to be refreshed, as you seek to live a life that you don’t want to ‘get away from’, and learn to live fully right where you are.
Following on from the 5-senses exercise I suggested around an hour ago, I did put on some relaxing instrumental worship music, which helped me focus my thoughts to the very Giver of Life, and I cosied myself up in a soft throw blanket and sat on a soft rug on the floor.
I had intended to do the five senses exercise, which I often do when I’m out and about to manage anxiety symptoms when they arise.
This particular date, June 11th, is a very significant day for me spiritually so it was important for me to spend time with God. I sat, cosy in the stillness for a while, gently aware of His Presence, and allowed my breathing to slow as I listened to the peaceful instrumental worship music. I gently and naturally observed things around me, the cherry blossom wall decal, the light coming through the window, and noticing the softness of the blanket and the hardness of the floor. I wasn’t paying particular attention to notice things but just letting myself be, and I ended up closing my eyes, and listening, and worshipping in my heart, and then curling up and laying down on the fluffy rug with my blanket around me, as I drew near to The LORD and thanked Him for this significant date in my life and what He has done for me.
You may see me through the journey of my blog as someone who is productive, and positive about life. But the Truth is, I am Held. The Truth is, as you may know if you have read previous posts, I was severely traumatised as a child bullied in school, and this didn’t leave me in adulthood no matter how hard I tried to get past it and I have gone through severe depression, anxiety, self-hate, low self-esteem, fear…a lot of fear, and panic attacks. When lying there, I realised a little of how far God has brought me. I also felt within me the helplessness of just being me, being a person, and the ‘yukiness’ of sin in my heart. I was aware of God’s constant, pure, beautiful, love, mindful of His Sacrifice for me, so that He can free me from my sin, from myself, my hurt and the absolute dead end and mess my life would be, internally and externally, without Him. And in that quiet, in my helplessness, I knew I am now safe, always Held, Secure in Christ’s unfailing, sacrificial, clean and perfect love. Some of us wonder how our Creator could have such love for helpless, weak and foolish sinners like ourselves – and yet in those precious moments, even in our need…we realise although we don’t understand just why He Loves us, He does….and the connection between Creator and His creation, His children somehow makes sense. And that is The One thing I need, Jesus Christ, out of which everything else flows to transform my otherwise broken, helpless, confused and distressed life.
Maybe you don’t believe in Him, maybe you think that you don’t need Him, maybe you defy all thoughts of your own helplessness or sinfulness. You can plan, prepare, strategize, try and try again, and keep on pushing through your life, and succeed outwardly on many levels.
But in those quiet moments, when you are all alone, is all your trying enough? Or are you actually stuffing a lot of things down deep within your heart – anger, hurt, fear, bitterness, trauma, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, apathy, darkness and pain? Are you seeking inspiration from other equally broken human beings, and we all are broken in some way, even in this world that desperately tries to present itself in a perfectly filtered light.
I know I am helpless without God, and I know I am safe to be helpless with Him, because He Is Strong enough so that I don’t have to be….His Strength transforms my weakness, and gives me new life, purpose and hope. When Jesus Christ draws near, and you draw near to Him, His Love, His Forgiveness changes you. A light is shone upon the things in you that you cannot face by yourself, but the Light is of Love and grace and forgiveness, and deep renewal. I found myself praying for the people who hurt me, which believe me has taken years, but it came easily and peacefully because of Who God Is, I thanked Him for the pain, because it led me to Him, to an appreciation of His Sacrifice for me, the incomparable pain He went through to save my lost and sinful soul, and declare me His, to declare me righteous in Christ, through faith and not through anything of myself, because in myself there is nothing good. But in Christ I am a new creation, blameless because of Who He Is and what He has done.
But just as with writing, it is a process to be renewed inwardly. It is a process far deeper, and far more freeing than any amount of ‘self help’ and believe me before I knew The Lord, I tried it. Self help is a bandage, but it is not the cure. Someday that bandage will fall off, and either we will find another temporary fix for the things in ourselves that none of us can repair, heal from or overcome, and we will look to someone or something else for aid.
How thankful I am that despite how helpless I am, and no matter the struggles I have been through, I am safe in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and Loved and securely Held by the Great Physician, The Only One Who can Truly help and heal us Deep within, not just patch us up, but set us free, and bring purpose out of pain. Yes, it may take time, it may take difficult things coming to the surface, it may seem to get worse before it gets better, but everything He does, He does well….He can free us from the mess we make of ourselves, our relationships and the world.
There is nothing like knowing that the reality that no matter what the narratives are of our lives, if we honestly and humbly ask Jesus Christ for help, He will never turn us away. He IS Love. He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life. I didn’t have that before but in the moments of retreat and stillness, I am reminded of the wonder that He Holds me, He holds my life, and transforms a broken life into something victorious, because He Is Perfect Love.
To come back to writing, and writing honestly and authentically, I am reminded of the healing and renewal process within me. I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and just as I develop the characters in my novel, who each have some reflection of myself as their journeys help me to understand mine better, so too must I take time to allow my lessons to work deep within me, so that what I write is more than words on a page.
Our creative journeys may be different, but taking time teaches us so much more about our craft or practice, it teaches us about our self.
Travelling teaches you (if you have the luxury to travel on your own), to take time out from the people you love so that you can connect on a deeper level with your own life, centre yourself and most importantly connect with your Creator, rediscover your life purpose, all of which in turn will ultimately help you be a better version of you and better care for the people you love when you return to them.
It may be glaringly obvious from the above statement that I am writing as a single person. I am aware that for many travel, holidays, vacation or whatever form seeing the world takes for you may involve spouses, family, children and even extended family and friends. Maybe you are able to carve out some time to yourselves if that is what you need, maybe that seems impossible for you at present. However, a word out for the singletons or solo travellers among us to really make the most of this time in your life, whether it is a temporary season or one that might stretch indefinitely ahead, learn in all seasons of life to view things positively. As humans we need ‘re-wiring’ as by default we seem to be wired to look at (or complain about) what we lack rather than being grateful for what we do have, even if what we have is a lesson or challenge. Perhaps we dwell upon aspects of loneliness or dreams of company rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth, connection and self reflection and nurturing so that we can be better to the people in our lives. I am sure that there are many who would cherish a few precious moments to themselves that they just can’t seem to find in the busyness of their lives. So if you are able to take time out and reconnect with the deeper things in life, see it as an opportunity, one which so many others would love to have….alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, so find a way to thrive in your solitude if you are a solo traveller, or single through the journey of life just now. xx
Travelling teaches you to dream again. Sadly, sometimes, the pressures or even just the ‘predictability’ of daily life can stifle us and be a contributing cause for us to stagnate in life. Travelling sparks something within us to help revive and excite the dreamer within, to reach deep and touch the place hidden in each of us that has the potential to see life afresh with child-like wonder, curiosity, fascination, openness and awe. I believe this goes deeper than the act of travelling itself to a place within each of us that was born to dream, to hope, to imagine, to create, and to reach for I believe, the One Who Created us for a life far beyond what the world has pressed and moulded us into accepting. Travelling is not the end in itself, nor the final ‘Teacher’, but it is an important part of the journey that reminds our souls not merely to exist or to survive, but to Live again. ❤
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
It’s 12.57am, and I can’t sleep. It is not insomnia as such, but more of an underlying anxiety and restless or nervous fear. I know there is nothing to fear. My Great God shelters me under the shadow of His Wing, and covers me with His Almighty protection. However, I have had times over the years of quite troubled sleep, and perhaps these feelings of unease are remnants of that. And yet, my Beautiful God speaks through the darkness to say: “Peace. My Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
He calls us to “consider the birds of the air” who do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns” and yet, our “Heavenly Father feeds them”. I hope the picture above brings you some feelings of calm, peace and joy. This afternoon a friend came over for a cup of tea and a chat, and we spoke about solitude, community and retreat. I told her about the walk in which I took these photographs and how it touched my heart to see that these beautiful birds, this little squirrel were so uniquely cared for by God. Having an interest in photography and a passion for capturing beautiful moments of beautiful things, I am able to hone in on the detail and marvel over the intricacy of a bird’s feathers, the ridges on its feet and tiny claws, and just how wonderfully designed the life around me is.
In a world where there is so much noise, uncertainty and fear, it can be hard to find peace. There is so much that feels tumultuous, uncertain, frightening, terrifying even for those people living in war zones, areas of unrest, famine, drought, violence, and sadly the list goes on and on… We tend to think of peace as the absence of conflict, of calm and steady waters, of our circumstances all in alignment when all is well. However, this surface calm is not the true Peace that our souls long for. We need an anchor of Peace for our souls, for we are all at some point in our lives tossed upon restless waters. I searched long and hard for years to find peace, and just as a bubble on a stream, such peace was so fragile, and temporary, certain to burst and vanish with the slightest friction. Temporary peace or calm means that we are forever restless in the ongoing pursuit of calm. The same goes for happiness or joy, of love, of acceptance. However, I have found, or been found by, a Peace that Is enduring, and that is a tangible, real and experienced comfort to my soul at the deepest level. This Peace is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He Is with us.
We are called to “seek peace and pursue it”, and I believe the only real way of doing this is in our pursuit of God, and in our resting in Him. However, there is something to be said about drawing aside from a busy world if and when we can, and to take time out, to pursue quiet surroundings, times of focused reflection and sharing, times for creativity, healing, letting go, rejuvenation, of solitude, and of companionship.
My friend actually came over today as we are planning a spiritual and creative “staycation retreat”, perhaps for three or four days, as something we can pursue and encourage each other through, together.
The process itself is quite special, as I have not found it a common thing to find people with whom these things can be shared with.
And so, as we reach the mid-point of a somewhat wintry feeling April, I continue on with my monthly themes – this month’s being hospitality and planning a creative and spiritual retreat.
I look forward to bringing you on this journey with me as we venture onwards together into quieter, more relaxing terrain.
As a follower of the LORD Jesus Christ, God’s Word has been transformative in my life…I realise that there is spiritual food that I need as much, if not more so, than the food I consume every day to keep me alive….the concept of ‘daily bread’…that which feeds, nurtures and gives us strength is not applicable merely in the physical realm.
We need to nurture our souls, renew our mind-set and thinking patterns, lay down the burdens of bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, fear, pain, loneliness, heartache to name but a few, and ‘put on’ graces of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. None of which we can accomplish without the loving care and help of our Merciful Creator, being led and guided by His Spirit.
And yet we can’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to take hold of us if we are unwilling to get up and to pursue these with greater focus, attentiveness and dedication.
But, it’s difficult isn’t it? At least it can be. But sometimes little and often is the way to go, just as we feed ourselves daily, and for the sake of our health and well being should take time to digest what we have taken in, so too it is with feeding upon, meditating, ‘chewing over’ spiritual truths so that we develop even more of a healthy appetite for the things that make for wholeness and life and peace, drawing near to God to nurture our souls and learning what this life is actually about…individually….from Him.
One thing I have found to be really helpful recently is a site called ‘YouVersion’. It has so many different plans, topics, reading material, audio and video guides and helps, and tracks your progress day by day for whichever plan you choose so you can come back to it, and take in a little at a time, or more if you are so inclined…and it is I’ve found to be a very good starting point for deeper study and reflection, and establishing or continuing on with regular routines.
I have found it to be a good place to go to help me when facing the challenges of procrastination, not knowing where to start or continue onto, and if you are like minded, I hope that you take a look and find some encouragement and nurturing for your mind, heart and soul as well as your physical body, today and in the days to come, with the ultimate ‘goal’ of experiencing in greater depth, intimacy and measure the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD.
Love, and God bless. xx
Image from WordPress free photo library.
You were not put on this earth to be like anyone else. Think about that for a moment. Neither were you put on this earth to have exactly the same experience as anyone else (I have always been fascinated by twins, but as an ‘outsider’ to twin life I imagine that even then you have unique experiences that your twin won’t share…twins….feel free to comment! 🙂 ).
If you are new to my blog, I am a gentle follower of Christ…my posts do not always explore issues of faith, some are to do with art, health and beauty, self reflection, mental health, creative writing, travel, photography, food, music, basically my life ‘As it happens to be’…and all are welcome, but my relationship with Christ is what makes me me. ❤
There is an interesting passage in Scripture, towards the end of John’s Gospel of Jesus Christ, where Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples is with Him after His resurrection. Simon Peter is somewhat of an impulsive guy, he makes great claims about his devotion to the Lord and displays a lack of self awareness of his own weakness and sin. Before Jesus was crucified, Simon Peter, just as His Lord knew he would and told him so, denied Jesus publicly three times, after his previous emphatic statement that even if everyone else left Him, he would not, he would rather die with Him. But Simon Peter did deny Jesus, and Jesus still loved Him and died for him. So, after all of this Jesus is with His disciples, and they are eating fish by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, beautifully restoring Simon Peter to fellowship with Himself asks him three times if he loves Him, which is painful for Simon Peter, as he does love his Lord, and yet denied Him three times. Jesus, the Christ then goes on to tell Simon Peter what kind of death he will die, and Simon Peter replies by looking to John and saying something along the lines of “Well, what about him?!”, to which Jesus Christ basically tells Simon Peter what has that got to do with you, you follow Me.
And so we have it there, in the pages of Scripture a very 21st Century problem ~ “The Comparison Trap”. Whether you are a follower of Christ today or not, you have unavoidably fallen into this trap in your life, perhaps several times. You have looked away from your own life and purpose, looked around you and said in your heart or out loud, “hey, what about them?”. I reiterate: You weren’t put on this earth to be like anyone else around you, or to have exactly the same life experience as another person. And I say this with love, and through experiencing the hurts that such comparison can bring.
So what is it that makes you look away from your own life to compare with others? Being inspired by others is healthy, but comparing and sizing up your life against someone else’s is not. What makes you think “it’s not fair”, or “why not me?” or even “why me, and not them?”. What gives you ‘FOMO’ ~ that dreaded, technology exacerbated ‘Fear Of Missing Out’?
Is it your lack of health compared to your friend’s wellbeing? Is it the broken family life you’ve experienced compared with your peers’ happy family experiences? Is it your perceived lack of talents next to that person who seems to be able to do it all? Is it your bank balance, your height, weight, stature, physical appearance or employment status? What makes you look ‘next door’ and compare? Perhaps it is the hand that you don’t have to hold, the child that you don’t have to raise, or the problems that other people don’t have to deal with.
Or maybe, conversely you are proud of your greater level of health and fitness, of your ‘achievements’ as a family and of having a successful career. Maybe you are the one who is talented and can sing, draw, write, create music, travel, run a business, make amazing things and attract admiring glances that others you know cannot. Are you richer, taller, shorter, leaner, bigger, more handsome or beautiful, with a ‘better’ job than others around you? Do you take pride in that? Do you have that beautiful relationship and that family that you feel sorry some of your single or infertile or bereaved friends or acquaintances do not?
Sometimes comparison can be good when it leads to gratitude or inspiration, but not if it leads to pride, self exaltation or bitterness, envy, self pity or jealousy. It can be good to realise that you are the one with a roof over your head, and have food, money, clothes and warmth when others are homeless and suffering. This sort of comparison should lead to a deeper gratitude for your life, and a desire to reach out to others to treat them in the way that you would wish to be treated if you were in their situation. If someone has talents that you wish you had, perhaps you can let that inspire you to explore your own unique gifts and abilities. And perhaps more difficult for the heart’s journey, if someone has that child or children when you are unable to, can you be grateful for them, and pray for them, seek to help children who are unfortunate, and be pleased for those who are in a good home, loved and cherished, even if it is something that you do not know or don’t have the opportunity to give as much as you long to. Can you be pleased that the family as the building block of society is thriving among the lives of your friends, even when you find yourself ‘lacking’ in some way. Can you be happy for those couples if you find yourself single and wanting a life companion? Can you appreciate that their lives are not all plain sailing, and that there are blessings that you have that they do not, and that you might have more time and freedom than perhaps they do.
Our lives are different, complex, unique, and we all have things hidden within our hearts that no one else knows about, so to compare ourselves and our journey’s with each other in a negative way detracts from the richness of our shared journeys.
Yet, what I write is not a lecture to you of dos and do nots. It is simply to say that there is no one else like you, there never has been and there never will be. With all that you like and dislike about yourself, you are unique, one of a kind, irreplaceable, made for a purpose, loved and the only you there will ever be. You do not have to live in the comparison trap. You do not have to stay wounded there. You can rise high above it and learn to soar as you realise that your life will be lived out in a way no one else’s will, even in the smallest details if not the grandest achievements.
No one else can give to the world what you can, and perhaps you can help others to find and appreciate that in their lives too. We were never meant to be someone else’s copy, replacement or backup plan. You are incomparably you, so don’t ever fear missing out by not being like someone else or having the life that they have, or even having the life you wished you had. This is your journey, life it fully, right where you are. xxx
I trace the contours of the moon with my eyes. I once thought she was my ‘guiding light’, but I was so lost then. I cried out to You, but the skies were sealed to my desperate pleas. Muffled in silence I quietly wept. The despair was potent in the mere thought that there could be life without You.
People came and went, not caring. They didn’t need the moon, nor You or anything beyond that real and solid thing in front of them there, in that moment. I would rather die. Or be as if I had never been. I was suffocating, desperately longing, but You were not there, or so it seemed.
At a cross roads yet again, led by the aching of my soul, to find and to Be Found. My heart was shattered glass within me, I bled inside, and there was no Healer. And yet I knew. If I desperately searched, surely, somehow, someway I would find You. For I knew.
Seventeen. Reaching out for meaning. Being led and not seeing. Seeking to live in the depths of now, and yet so wounded. Trying to hold myself together in a fantasy. Trying to walk away from the pain. Inside, eleven, twelve, frozen in trauma and a child’s helpless sorrow. Where were you? Where are you now? I bleed. I bleed.
Is this the mid point? I saw You, I cried out for You, not Who or What anymore, but You and You came to me, rescued me, and are healing me. I belong to You and to no other.
Who is there in heaven but You? There is none that I desire, but *You*.
Your blood is that scarlet ribbon that ties me to You. Only in looking back can I trace the echoes of Your grace, the handprints of Your love, and the broken bread crumbs of Your Sacrifice, scattered along my path, hidden in darkness yet present each and every day.
If I am lost, it is in Your certainty. I do not know the path ahead, or how to heal what has been wounded. But You Are The Path. The Way that’s found me.
You trace the deepest caverns of my soul. And there, You Love me. Endlessly.