It’s a personal matter!

‘Tis the season for personalisation. My inbox and letterbox are full of offers to print the name of my partner / children / cat / dog on a potential Christmas gift, or even on something for self. Take this morning – I opened my emails to be faced with this question: Do you want your own personalised mug, for free – YES or NO?

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Truth is, for a split second, it seemed an attractive idea. My tea mug is showing signs of age, but then priorities kicked in…
How do I like to start my day? – With a moment to align myself with God, not by getting diverted with the offer a free mug!
As I recognised this, I sensed an alternative offer from God:
Do you want your own time with me, for free – YES or NO?

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God calls each one of us by name. “Come to me” God says, “and I will give you rest.”
Not an empty aimless rest, but rest from all the unimportant, unnecessary things and thoughts in our lives.
Aligning ourselves with God, allowing God into our chaotic, messy minds and lives, gives us a fresh perspective. It prioritises what really matters, and what’s got our ‘name’ on it. For we are all called to be our true selves, making our unique mark on the people and places where we live out our lives.

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This call is tailor made, unlike the offers to personalise goods which aren’t actually very personal –  I don’t have a dog or cat, so offering me food dishes with their name, misses the mark. Not only that, I don’t think it would be possible for a dog or cat to read ‘Fido’ or ‘Fluffy’ on their personalised bowl!
In contrast, God gifts us and calls us to put our particular attributes and abilities to good use. We will never be called to do the impossible. The challenging – yes, sometimes – but to learn is to become more fully ourselves.

To be called by name catches our attention, just like the attention of a young child is caught when their name is written into a story. It’s personal…

Truth is… “I have called you by name” Isaiah 43:1

Half empty or half full?

In the last seven days life has been full of choices – to see my glass as half empty or half full.

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Truth is, a culmination of various events put me in a ‘what next’ frame of mind.
These included my daughter being pushed off the road by an oncoming driver which resulted in her car being a write off!
A blocked sewer!
An officious letter informing me I was in breach of the law regarding parking access!
A 25% burn to my hand!
And then the same daughter being attacked while driving my car, resulting in considerable damage to it!

! or ?

It seemed as though my glass was clearly half empty, but then I realised that this was only half the story.
What about the fact that the police were so professional?
That the water board came out at night and got things flowing again?
That an admin error was recognised regarding access rights, so I’m not unlawful?
That in the UK we have ready access to medical services?
That strangers stopped to help my daughter?
So many things that make, as the psalmist says, ‘my cup overflow’.

Once I started to tell myself the whole story and noticed the fine details, my perspective changed. There was more going on than initially appeared, and that’s what gives my life true shape.
I believe that nothing can separate us from the presence of God, and so, in the words of a song, there are ‘10,000 reasons for our hearts to sing’. It’s not about being superficial and pretending that all is sweetness and light, but about going deeper.
In the words of Albert Camus:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,
within me, there’s something stronger
– something better, pushing right back.”

All this has prompted me to fill in the gaps, and ‘colour in’ the black and white sketch of life that I was making. Standing back, I can now see a more complete, colourful picture. Just like the rainbow that brightened up the sky this week too…

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Truth is… O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!’ Psalm 103:2

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

 

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

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

 

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