Woe or Wow

There’s a roundabout in a nearby town that for a few months each year is breath taking – wild flower seeds have been scattered, and during the summer months it’s a mass of colour as different flowers bloom alongside each other.

I happened to drive round it earlier this week and my response was ‘wow’, but I also felt a tinge of sadness as autumn is setting in and blooms will soon be fading.

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Truth is, I’m not a winter person. I don’t look forward to the dark and the cold, but of course seasons are necessary for life to flourish.
I’ve just planted a mass of bulbs in the garden. You wouldn’t know it, as there’s nothing to show for my efforts, but I’m confident that next spring they will emerge from their deep dark setting. And that’s the point – it’s having hope in the waiting.

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This week a number of people have talked with me about the waiting time they are in:
Waiting to find work that matches their abilities and qualities; waiting for true friendships; waiting to feel more settled in a new role; waiting for an assurance to materialise; waiting for the baby to sleep through!
Many of these situations are waiting for sown seeds to take root and shoot.

As I think about these people, and my own ‘waits’, I am mindfully letting go of ‘woe’ and holding on to hope that there will be a ‘wow’ in due course:
No longer will that person be a square peg in a round hole; connections will be made; there will be a settling down; it will happen; and yes, broken nights will end!

So the roundabout flowers remind me that there are cycles in life. We have times when we visibly blossom and flourish, and other times when development is less obvious as it’s under the surface.

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And maybe these times aren’t all dark, for under the surface, seeds and bulbs are protected from harsh winds, driving rain and freezing cold. So much is happening even though on the surface it appears not, so I for one, am going to trust in what I cannot see!

Truth is… But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience’ Romans 8:25

 

Putting My Foot In It!

Let’s start with a confession – I am naturally a perfectionist.
My junior school years were a mixed blessing. I was sent to a convent school where the strict routines gave predictability, but fear of doing wrong too.
Coupled with a perfectionist streak, it made me very anxious of making mistakes.
Worse still, it made me harsh and unforgiving of myself, and reluctant to own up to any mishaps.
It’s been something I’ve had to unlearn, and another opportunity has recently presented itself to me. We’ve been having work done to make our home more accessible from the outside, so steps have been replaced by slopes. Last Saturday a path was laid and guess what, while it was still setting, I put my foot in it!downloadNo one saw, and truth is, initially I wanted it to stay this way as I felt utterly stupid.
However, the shadow cast by wanting to avoid disclosure was far greater, so it was a huge relief when I ‘fessed up’ my mess up. As soon as I shared my slip, I could actually see the funny side. Talk about leaving your mark!

How was it that earlier, it had felt like hiding in the shadows was an option?
I guess it was because being less than honest, is a human characteristic.
Apparently, we lie on average two times a day. We tell ‘white lies’ to avoid hurting others, but lying to cover our errors is a different matter.  Not only are we deceiving others, but we are deceiving ourselves and prevent ourselves learning from our mistakes.
I’m of an age when I remember fast forwarding and rewinding tapes, and here’s my analogy:

Forget it enough to fast forward
Remember it enough not to rewind

I’ve learnt a lot from not covering my tracks last weekend. My footprint on the path is a daily reminder to look before I leap, in all sorts of ways.
It’s a reminder to pace myself in the daily stress of my current life.
It’s a reminder that we all make mistakes, and of the release that comes from honesty.

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My adult offspring think it’s rather nice that my footprint will be there long after I’m gone…

Truth is… ‘The truth will set you free’ John 8:32

 

Thumbs up!

There’s a saying ‘Bad things come in threes’.
Maybe, but could it be that after one or two glitches, we tend to notice negatives?
What would happen if we deliberately looked for positives to salvage? I had this opportunity a few days ago:
Within three hours, my partner went ‘missing’ in a garden centre, a bus didn’t turn up, and when I eventually got home I couldn’t get in! Truth is, I felt annoyed and angry.
However, I realised that I could stick with the negatives, or focus on the positives which were there if I chose to notice them.

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There are always two ways of seeing a situation – from our perspective, and from the other person’s.
It turned out that my partner had misunderstood our rendez-vous point and was blissfully unaware he was a ‘missing person’ as he sat sipping his coffee!
So I had a choice. To cling on to my reactive exasperation, or recognise that he hadn’t intended to send me searching!
Later, as I started to let go, a better memory of the situation surfaced. A stranger who learnt of my predicament had thoughtfully suggested looking in the lesser-used café – which was where he was.

The bus not turning up for our return journey, was one of those things that sometimes happen. Nothing is predictable in life, and maybe this actually gives room for good things to nudge in.
Again I had a choice. To feel fed up, or see it as an opportunity!
I actually have an excellent track record of both giving and receiving lifts (my longest hitch being to Sicily and back!)

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So with positivity and a sense of adventure, I stuck out my thumb and within seven minutes a stranger had stopped! He was a lovely young man who dropped us back in our home town – I was left with an immense feeling of gratitude.

Being locked out was another ‘it happens’ situation.
Again I had a choice. To be annoyed, or to see the bigger picture!
Being accidentally locked out was a simple mistake, nothing more.
And that’s been this week’s ‘takeaway’ for me – forgiveness, of both others and myself, and letting go of resentments that ultimately tie me in greater knots.

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Truth is… “Whichever one of you has committed no sin, may throw the first stone” John 8:7

Leaps of Faith

The August Bank Holiday weekend always brings back memories – something along the lines of ‘all’s well that ends well’!
On the holiday Monday a few years ago, our daughter’s 21st birthday request was to get the family together at Go Ape (a high wire tree top ‘adventure’). At this point I should mention that although I am brave in many ways, my courage doesn’t lend itself to heights so I was definitely going the extra mile!

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It was one It was one of those crisp early mornings, cold but bright. We gathered for the obligatory safety briefing and were warned of all the dangers (as well as how to avoid them). At that point my knees started to shake, I think more from fear than cold!
But you know what, it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating times of my life. I was on an adrenaline high for days afterwards, and it was because I’d faced my fears (as well as having a fab time with the offspring!)

Fear has two possible responses: Forget Everything And Run… or Face Everything And Rise.

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At Go Ape I learnt so much from rising above the fear and venturing into the tree tops. I discovered that inwardly naming my fears put them into perspective; I discovered the power of ‘just do it’; I discovered the enabling that comes from group encouragement. I climbed heights and crossed breadths in many different ways!

Truth is though, my fear at Go Ape was unfounded. Yes, I could have fallen, but if I had, the safety line that is clipped on at the beginning of each challenge, would have prevented serious injury.

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‘Always stay attached’ was the mantra given in the high wire adventure briefing, and as a believer, I find this useful when facing everyday fears.

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I remind myself:
Always stay attached to God.
Deliberately ‘clip on’ at the start of the day, and reconnect as necessary.
Notice the footholds, and use them.
Feel for the grasping points, and hang on.
– And every so often there’ll be a zip wire that will be so exhilarating, you’ll shout yessssssss!

Truth is… Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ 1 Peter 5:7

The Best Is Yet To Come…

Twice this week I’ve found myself in conversation with people who feel that the best is yet to come (actually it’s three times, if I include conversations I’ve had with myself!)
Following a bit of a frustrating day, one friend was telling me that he’d had one of those ‘why on earth am I doing this job’ moments. He has many gifts and abilities (as we all have) but has a sense that there’s something more fulfilling for him to do in life.
We talked a bit about how differences can be made to other peoples’ lives by the little things we do, and that ‘waiting times’ needn’t be wasted times.

I too am in a time of waiting. I’m waiting for acute depression to lift. I’m waiting for a Hearing Dog to enable me to return to employment. I’m waiting for relationships to mend. None of this is passive, I am actively finding ways forward, and I am holding on to the words a chaplain said to me many years ago: “The best is yet to come”.
Wonderfully, those exact words are on the front of a card just given to me by another friend.

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They remind me that I don’t have to persuade God to make life fulfilling,
nor does God need to persuade me that there is more to life than meets the eye.
It’s not about being persuaded, it’s about connecting with our deepest desires.

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I believe that God doesn’t want anything other than that we fulfil our potential.
But truth is, when life doesn’t seem to go according to plan, I sometimes doubt God has got the ‘what, when and where’ details to hand!

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Gradually though, I’m coming to recognise that life lived in the company of God can have a ‘lastminute.com’ feel to it.
The ‘departure gate’ for the next step of our journey through life, only opens when we are actually ready to step through.
So this week I’ve remembered that in fog, pilots keep to a flight path by trusting their navigation instruments, and I’ve realigned myself with the Truth which is at the heart of what matters.

Truth is… I know what I’m doing. I have plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” Jeremiah 29:11

Know It All…

My local Medical Centre has changed its appointment system.
I’m an infrequent user, so I didn’t know how it worked until this week. I had a temperature, rash, sickness and hearing loss, and was told the earliest I could be seen was next month!
I questioned the delay and a phone consultation followed. The doctor quickly attributed the rash to a “fungal infection”, and the other symptoms to “depression”.  I felt at the end of the line, in more ways than one!

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I got the feeling that he’d taken one look at my medical record, seen the word ‘depression’, and concluded this explained everything. Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. I subsequently saw another GP who did a thorough examination and concluded that it’s a pesky virus.

All this got me thinking though, and humour gives a different perspective.
There was something outrageous in my full-size-Jackson-Pollock-effect-rash being attributed to depression!
As I metaphorically raised my eyebrows, my perspective shifted and I wondered how things had seemed from the doctor’s end.
He was right, depression can have a negative impact on health and cause all kinds of symptoms.
He was right, I do happen to have a diagnosis of depression.

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However, at that point he missed the point. He had no idea how depression actually affects me because he’s never met me, and didn’t ask any leading questions.
In actual fact, I have lived with a ‘black dog’ for years and I now have it very well trained. I always keep it on a short leash, and have learnt many skills to keep it walking to heel. It does not bark, nor does not bite other people.

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But truth is, there are times when like the doctor, I too make ‘misdiagnoses’ about people and situations. I sometimes think I’ve got the picture but I haven’t. I’ve not listened carefully enough to what’s been said – or not said.  I’ve made assumptions or jumped to conclusions.
So, this week God’s reminded me to never be a know it all – because I don’t!

Truth is… ‘Never rely on what you think you know’ Proverbs 3:5

 

As Is – As If…

I’m reading John Ortberg’s book – Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.
It opens with the words:
In certain stores you will find a section of merchandise available at greatly reduced prices… each tag carries the same words – ‘as is’. This is a euphemistic way of saying “These are damaged goods… you’re going to find a flaw… So when you find it, don’t come whining… [There are] no returns. No refunds. No exchanges… You must take it as is.”

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Ortberg then makes the point that the imperfections we have as human beings, put us in the ‘as is’ category.
I hadn’t come across the American expression ‘as is’, but it’s got me thinking.
There are many situations in life where we get more, or less, than we bargained for.
Any relationship will have nice and nasty surprises.
On a superficial level, someone’s irritating little habits can rub us up the wrong way, and on a deeper level, another’s emotional baggage can trip us up.

So I’m finding it helpful to remember that we all have ‘as is’ tags,
and in some relationships it can be worth talking about these together.
Not always easy, as typically we don’t like recognising our imperfections,
let alone them been spotted by others!
The point is though, that we are all flawed, and we all have a choice.
To do nothing, or do something about our flaws.

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Which brings me to ‘as if’.
Truth is, I’ve a number of ‘default’ positions that I want to change.
Solution Focused Therapy centres on the question:
‘If you lived your life without ‘the problem’, what would you do differently?’
It’s about living ‘as if’ you didn’t have ‘the problem’.
So I’m beginning to think about the things I would do differently,
and more importantly, starting to put them into practice.
It’s about taking little steps.
Sometimes I stumble, other times I shuffle, and on a good day I step out!
It’s not about ‘can I?’  but ‘will I?’

“To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

Truth is… Watch for the new thing I am going to do.  It is happening already—you can see it now! Isaiah 43:19

 

 

Deaf Sentence…

There was a day last week when I felt under a deaf sentence!
No, that’s not a typo, I am deaf.
It was news coverage of a report in the Lancet that darkened my day – research has shown that hearing loss tops the list of factors that can lead to dementia.

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That’s the bad news. The good news is that this isn’t inevitable.
It’s not so much deafness that can contribute to dementia, but the isolation
and depression that deafness can result in. These are ‘modifiable’ factors,
and if a person can find a way through and forward, there’s a case for optimism!

Of course, it’s not only deaf people who may experience isolation and depression.
For a wide variety of reasons, many people will experience poor mental health in one form or another, at some point in their life.
From my experience, focusing on the little things that can be changed in life rather than the big things that can’t, and having the courage to spot the difference, is the way forward.

Truth is, it was a mixed blessing when my audiology results catapulted me into the ‘severely deaf’ category.
It confirmed a degenerative condition, yet opened up the possibility of an Assistance Dog, and I’m now on the waiting list for a Hearing Dog which will transform my life in so many ways.

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In the meantime, I need to live in the present moment.
As a believer, I have the sense that God longs for us to let go of re-living the past or pre-living the future. It’s the choices we make today, that shape life for us, and those around us.

The essentials of happiness have been identified as

“Something to do, something to love, and something to hope for”

This dates from the 18th century, so it’s stood the test of time.
To me, it suggests that a meaningful life is a purposeful life. It all comes down to choices, and whether we are open to life in all its fullness, even with limitations!

 Truth is…  ‘I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness’ John 10:10

Weighing it up…

Weights and measures seem to be an integral part of life.
Even before delivery day, babies’ vital statistics are plotted on a graph and from then on, they will be weighed and measured in all sorts of ways, by all sorts of people!

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We live surrounded by numbers and scales that measure our development and worth.
– From school grades as children to work appraisals as employees, our performance is assessed.
And not only is our performance rated, so too is our popularity.
– From the number of party invites a child receives to the number of followers we have on Facebook, we are weighed up and often found wanting.

In an effort to protect her daughter from feeling overlooked, I know of one mother who sent her Valentine’s cards each year. When the teenager later discovered that these hadn’t in fact come from secret admirers, but from her mother, the effect was devastating.
That was well over 40 years ago, so perhaps a yearning to be popular isn’t a 21st century phenomenon!

The numbers game is commonplace, and truth is, I’ve been crunched by numbers recently.
People have asked me “So how many people have signed up to your Blog?”
The answer is, ‘not many’ and at times I’ve wondered if it’s worth continuing.
But then someone tells me that I’m making sense. And that’s the point – it’s not about numbers, it’s about offering a point of connection. That’s what should count.

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As a believer, I get the feeling that it’s not about how many good things I might do that count, but whether I am connecting with God. And that’s not the demand of a selfish god, but the yearning of a Creator who longs for our full potential to be reached!
For me, connecting with God is being open and honest in my heart with the One who urges me to believe that we are loved.
It’s a relief to be counted in a positive way, when our past (or present) tells us otherwise.

We matter so much to God, that we are beyond measure.

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Truth is… ‘You are precious in my sight and I love you’ Isaiah 43:4

 

 

 

 

Coming across…

Last week I lost it. I had been wronged and my response was to lose my rag.
Not a pretty situation.
A better response would have been to take a step back,
and then return cool, calm and collected to explore a way forward.
But I was deeply hurt. I exploded, and the adage ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ disappeared in a puff of smoke!

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The turning point came the following day.
Truth is, I was still nursing my hurt, but unexpectedly I found myself humming the melody from a song I learnt many years ago. Then the words burst into consciousness – ‘May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, be acceptable to you, God my strength and my redeemer’.
I found myself inwardly singing them over and over again, and they became a bridge.
I found myself seeing things from another perspective, and in coming across to the other side, a conversation resulted and we moved on.
This didn’t mean brushing the situation under the carpet, but rather giving the deeper issues a good airing.

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Taking in the broader picture, rather than just focussing on my hurt, was in fact liberating.
I guess because it got to the heart of the matter, and also lined up with my faith as a believer in God.
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think that Christians should be spineless.
We should value ourselves and not let others trample over us, but how we do this needs to be in line with our faith.
How we come across speaks volumes.

Ghandi said

 “Be sure you taste your words before you spit them out”

I guess it’s a reminder to us all to to stop, look and listen before opening our mouth.
Words have such power – they can build up, or knock down.
May we choose wisely.

Truth is… ‘May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to you, Lord my refuge and my redeemer’ Psalm 19:14