Whatever time you get up in the morning, whether you are an early bird or a night owl, it can be helpful to start the morning in quietude and contemplation before the day begins.
I personally like that bit of extra time in bed when I can pray to my Creator God and think, but I also like to read Scripture in the morning. Sometimes I’m not as disciplined with doing this and read more later in the day, but when I do have that time set aside with God spending time with Him and in His Word I do feel strengthened and ‘fed’ spiritually.
I don’t stick rigidly to a particular practice in the mornings as some people do, and we are all different and respond better to different things in line with our unique characters and personalities.
It can be beautiful just to take a few moments to look out the window at the start of the day, especially if you have a bit of sunshine or in this season some frost. As I write I notice what looks like a tiny little bird huddled amid the bare branches at the top of a tree. The sky is a light gradating blue, darker higher up and fading into the palest of blues, almost white, at the horizon. It is good to pause and notice and reflect at the start of your day, or at any time of the day for that matter, when you are able to carve out that time for yourself.
I often enjoy gaining an insight into what other people are doing with their time. On You Tube there are so many morning and evening ‘routines’ that people share that can inspire. I like to approach each day afresh but even the most spontaneous among us have certain key ‘building blocks’ that they include in their day to day lives.
Some people find the benefit from writing ‘morning pages’ of free flowing thought, of writing out goals or lists at the start of the day to give them focus, or of journaling or reading.
Perhaps you use your time for blogging as a form of reflection instead or as well.
2020 has taught us in many ways to slow down. It’s important to allow our lives to progress as we renew our minds. I don’t recommend starting the day with the noise of the world (as in the news of what’s going on in the world) but to strengthen you own mind and heart in some way.
We pay attention to our bodies as we eat breakfast, exercise or go outside, but it is important to also pay attention to our spiritual health and our mental wellbeing and for me that means taking in the Truth and spending time with God, even if for a few moments until I’m fully awake and ready for the day and can ponder more of those ideas later on as the day progresses.
What do you like to do to incorporate contemplation and reflection times into your day? Perhaps it is something you can write about in your blog and make sense of the many thoughts going on in your head through this pandemic? x
Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?
What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?
As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.
1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.
Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.
Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:
Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.
Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.
Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?
Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?
Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!
2. Social connections, priorities and other people.
As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.
It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.
Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.
3. Plans and projects.
You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.
What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?
4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.
Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?
Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. x
At the start of a New Year we often find ourselves evaluating our priorities and assessing our progress over the past year. Many people have health and fitness goals, however, focusing on things like nutrition is only part of what it means to be healthy, and being spiritually fit, healthy and nourished is fundamental to true success in life.
This post is geared towards fellow believers in The LORD who want to deepen and strengthen their relationship with God and to live a life led by Him. It is also for anyone who is interested in knowing more about God, anyone who is interested in reading The Word of God, but unsure as to where to start.
Over the past few years I have done various ‘plans’ using an online resource called ‘YouVersion’. This provides written as well as audio and visual Bible reading resources, and if you log in and create an account you can see that there is a wide range of resources that include reading Scripture by books in the Bible, by life topics, and many categories so that you will surely find something that will help you with where you are at in life whatever your age, life stage, or situation.
Last year, however, I tried something new, and this was a Bible reading plan via YouVersion that I did with other people in my church. The resource is set up so that you have the option of doing plans individually or with other people. Up until last year I had only ever gone through these plans individually. However, the plan involved reading a chapter of the Bible a day, and at the end of the year this resulted in reading through the whole New Testament. Weekends were ‘reflection’ days so there were no readings for these, which also allowed time to play ‘catch up’. I didn’t always manage to do the readings on a day to day basis with this plan, although I would be ‘feeding’ myself with Scripture on a daily basis in other ways. This meant that I spent lengthier periods ‘catching up’ but I am pleased and blessed to say that I did finish the year long plan and it was a really positive experience.
One of the highlights for me was that at the end of each reading people could comment and reflect upon and discuss with each other what we had all just read. It provided a wonderful new way of learning and gaining insights from other people as well, which I wouldn’t otherwise have when reading on my own, and I think it is important to have a balance of both personal and devotional reading, and group study. I have to say, I only knew a few of the people doing the study to talk to, and most of the others I still don’t know, which gave a sense of being more connected with a wider group of believers that I may not otherwise have had the chance to have any interaction with.
This year another group study has started which I have also joined in with, covering both the Old and New Testaments, and which will take two years (or one, depending on the reading plan and pace you decide to go at). I am excited about this because it feels like a journey together, of daily mutual encouragement and insight, and most of all growing closer to God and His ways.
I also am looking forward to studying more personal topics to me on an individual basis through this resource, as well as through other avenues of Bible study for me this year.
Of course, as with everything it is important to be discerning, and to prayerfully consider which plans to do, especially if any seem to be led more by a person or theme, than by the Pure Word of God. On the whole, however, I do recommend this online resource to be a good way to nourish our souls and spiritual growth in a manageable way, and which helps us to see our ‘progress’ as we journey through the Bible this year.
So, here is the link if you would like to take a look, and praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we will all have a fruitful year, in which God Is greatly glorified in our lives, by His Spirit, and for those who are ‘testing the waters’ that you will respond to His call of Pure Love to You to be part of His family and His kingdom.
God bless, and behold the ‘new things’ He Is doing in your life this year! Shalom. <>< x
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.