Tag Archives: art

New Year’s Resolutions Part Two – Wellbeing Goals

I think I’ve said this a few times, but 2017 was a pretty intense year for me. (I won’t go into all the details again, I promise…) So when I started thinking about what word I wanted to pick as my defining word for 2018, one kept coming to mind:

Breathe.

The other day when I was sorting through some boxes in my flat, I came across a picture I painted a few years ago. I am by no means a great artist, but from time to time I dabble in art worship, and this particular picture I had painted in response to a time of reflection on Psalm 23. One particular verse had stood out for me, verse three, which in the Message translation reads:

True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction

Elsewhere in the Bible, several of the authors talk about the Christian life being a race,* and I love this image, this idea of God allowing us to pause and take a moment to rest, to breathe, before picking up and carrying on.

You let me catch my breath - Psalm 23

So this year for me is about hitting pause, and going back to basics. I have spent the last three years working steadily towards the goal of finishing my Masters, without much thought for what came next. I have been working in public sector administration to fund my studies, which is enjoyable enough but not something I believe I am called to long term. I have some ideas of what I would like to do, and what I believe God is calling me to, but I need for now to not rush into the next thing. I need to take some time just to be with God. To remember how to read the Bible for relationship and not just for study. To rediscover my talents for musical and poetical worship. To find joy in having the time to volunteer for things again. I need to catch my breath.

And sometimes I need to be reminded not to worry about my future. For a long time the background of my laptop has been a quote from Winnie the Pooh, the great fountain of wisdom. It says: ‘Rivers know this: there is no hurry, we shall get there someday’. I cannot tell you how comforting I still find that every time I open my laptop. It reminds me that it’s okay not to have it all figured out yet. I sometimes feel like I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and I’m missing out on God’s Big Purpose for my life. But with God, nothing is wasted. He has put me where I am for a reason (which I am still discovering) and will lead me on to the next thing in the right time. Until then I will keep my eyes and ears open for what He is calling me to, pushing at doors to see which ones will open, and trusting in His promises.

So this year is about resting and trusting, and focusing on my spiritual and mental health, but also my physical health. Basically I’m looking to take better care of myself.

The truth of the matter is, last year during the height of dissertation season I got into some pretty bad eating and exercising habits – the former I did too much of and the latter nowhere near enough. The result being that I put back on a fair amount of the weight that I’d lost in the previous few years. So I am aiming to shed that weight again (roughly 1st.) through eating more healthily and exercising more. I have started planning ahead my meals a bit better and finding healthier alternatives to favourite snacks. I’ll be going back to dance classes again and I really do intend to either use the gym at work (I get a bit bored at the gym but the work one is free to staff members) or take up swimming again as there is a pool really near me.

This morning at Church we had our covenant service, where we celebrate all the great things God has done through our community in the past year and commit to serving Him together in the next. Our youth minister reminded us that resolutions are easier to keep in community, where we can encourage one another. This resonated with me as I thought about my New Year’s resolutions and the fact that I have shared them fairly publicly on this blog. I hope that it will help me to stick to them as now other people know and can hold me accountable. And if you would like to share yours in the comments please do so that we can work towards them together.

On which note I feel I should share that I have not done very well at my writing goal this week, today being the only day that I have managed to write for an extended period… BUT on Monday I went to a second hand bookstore and didn’t buy a single thing, which is a huge win for me!

Going back to rivers, often when I think about that Winnie the Pooh quote, a certain song comes to mind which I find soothing to my soul. I’d like to share it with you. (You can read the lyrics here).

 

* e.g. Hebrews 12v2; Acts 20v24; 2 Timothy 4v7

SaveSave

Advertisements

my second favourite Christmas present

My favourite Christmas present last year was easily our family holiday in Cyprus. No competition. I love travelling, seeing new places and different cultures, and to be able to do so and tie-in visits to my extended family, courtesy of my wonderful Nan, is hard to beat.

Coming close second in the Christmas present rankings was the gift from my parents of a new Bible. It is no ordinary Bible, though, it is a new version of the NIV with lovely wide margins for making notes and doodling, and COLOURING PAGES. I find colouring quite a soothing activity, and the Bible is one of the few books I don’t mind scribbling all over, so this really was a perfect gift.

It is such a beautiful book, however, that it has taken me a few weeks to build up the courage to tarnish its pristine pages. There was one day last week though, when a verse kept tumbling through my mind and I just needed to doodle it out. I sketched a bit in pencil first, but when I was happy I outlined the text in pen and got colouring. I’m new to this type of artsy-creativity (more of a crafty person myself) but I was quite pleased with the result, and am now filled with the desire to learn more calligraphy and lettering styles…

2017-01-23-17-44-05

Start

IMG_0209

Approximately one year ago I followed a link to a blog I read occasionally. The author was Jon Acuff. The blog post was looking for adventurers, all you had to do was fill in a quick form. I closed the window and tried to forget about it but it kept tugging at the back of my mind.

I was a few months into a new job and I was supposed to be happy. I was where God wanted me to be (I still believe that, by the way). But there was still this longing for something more. So I went back to the post and filled out the form, not realising how significant that small action would turn out to be. I soon found myself a part of something called ‘The Start Experiment’ (more recently reinvented as the ’30 days of Hustle’) an amazing online community with daily emails and encouragement to push you towards achieving your goals and seeing your dreams become reality.

One year on, my life is so different. I have left that job and am currently unemployed and living back with my parents, with very little in the way of concrete plans. But I have my dreams and the last year has taught me that they are worth fighting for. I am taking chances I never would have dreamed of a year ago. I have best friends who live the other side of the world whom I’ve never met but who feel like my sisters. I have bought a domain name and am starting to take myself seriously as a writer. This is the power of community.

My goal in that original Start Experiment was to see myself as a writer. As part of that experience I wrote the following poem, and posted it on a Facebook group of more than 3000 people. and they liked it.

Start

Sometime,

In a time before,

I was afraid

so I hid.

I thought I had

nothing to share

nothing to give

I thought I was

Nothing.

And I was afraid

that people would see

the nothing in me.

But now I know

what was really scaring me

was the simple idea

that I might be

Something.

That I might have

something to give

something to share

and it might be

Amazing.

But I’m afraid to be

the person I could be

if I let myself be me.

I am made

for better things

than I’ve settled for…

So I’m choosing

to let go

of the things I’m holding onto

that hold me back

And I’m choosing

not to be afraid

of where my dreams may lead me

and the person I could become

if I let myself believe

that the One who created me

Didn’t make a mistake

But saw me

and knew me

Even before I was made

And He filled me

Brim-full of potential

to be creative

for I am made in the image of Creator God

And He filled me

with a deep-set longing

to find Him – for in finding Him I find myself

This I now know

I need not fear

who I have been

or who I could be

Because I am loved

and there is no place for fear in love.

When a ‘No’ feels like a win

I officially finished my job yesterday, meaning today I am officially out of work.

At this point I feel like I should be crazily job hunting and widening my search for work, but actually I am relaxed. I have options and I have time. I’d rather have the ‘right’ job than just any job.

Last week I had a preliminary interview for a job that on paper seemed like a brilliant opportunity. It was in  church youth work (my field) and included training at the local Bible college. The staff and elders from the church whom I met at the interview were all lovely, and friendly and put me at my ease as soon as I arrived. They asked all the right questions, and listened to my story without judgement. They appreciated and understood what I had gained from my life experiences and how that influenced my work. The answered all my questions with what I wanted and hoped to hear from potential employers, and from a church family. The church itself was a lovely building, recently refurbished, with great spaces and equipment for the youth work. In all it ticked nearly all of my boxes of what I’m looking for in a job.

But I left with the feeling that it wasn’t the right opportunity for me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. When people asked, I said I wasn’t sure that the village location would suit me (I’ve realised now that I am definitely a city girl at heart) but there was more to it than that. It just didn’t feel right.

I had a call from the church leader in the evening after the pre-interview saying that they would be taking up references that week and shortlisting for the formal interviews and would be in touch at the end of the week. I thanked them and said that although I was still interested in the post but would appreciate having a few days to think about it.

In my heart I knew that I wouldn’t be taking the job, but practically in my head I told myself I needed to think more about it. Because, without a job lined up, could I really afford the luxury of turning down a job?

So as the week went by I grew more sure that I was making the right decision, but was really nervous that the church would call and offer me a formal interview and I would have to turn it down.

But when they called… the church leader said that they had really enjoyed meeting me, I came over really well in the pre-interview and ticked all the right boxes in terms of what they were looking for… but… as they had talked and prayed about it they felt sure that it wouldn’t be the right situation for me. I was so relieved, I was over the moon. I explained that I had been feeling the same way, that I was really impressed by everything I’d seen and heard but just knew it wasn’t right for me.

So here’s the thing. Here’s the takeaway – God knows what He is doing. And He tells us. We just have to listen. The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone and there are beautiful moments where what we think God is saying to us is confirmed through what He is saying to other people.

I may not know right now where I am headed next. I have ideas, and they are exciting and I am waiting to see how the opportunities in front of me play out… But I have no definite answers right now. But I have hope. God knows where I am going, and He is at work, behind the scenes, preparing the place for me.

I’ve given up making plans for the future. I have ideas, dreams of what I want for my life, and I know God has an amazing plan for me that will let me achieve those dreams to His glory.IMG_0034

“And I will lead the blind

in a way that they do not know,

in paths that they have not known

I will guide them.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,

the rough places into level ground.

These are the things I do,

and I do not forsake them”

Isaiah 42v16

sometimes the fork in the road…

fork slotted spoon

… is really a slotted spoon.

A few years ago I got to a point in my life where I was at a fork in the road. I was trying to decide what to do next in my life, and I seemed to have several equally good options to pick from.

My question was: what does God want me to do?

Around that time I read this passage in Psalm 19 (Message):

“The revelation of God is whole

and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of God are clear

and point out the right road.

The life maps of God are right

showing the way to joy.

The directions of God are plain

and easy on the eyes”

So I drew the first picture, and felt a lot happier because God was going to clearly show me which path He wanted me to take.

But He didn’t.

Instead He told me to choose…

What?!

The more I thought and prayed about it the more I felt God saying it was up to me what path I took.

A friend suggested that while God may have a “final destination” in His plan for me, I could take any number of routes to get there, more like the second picture and Isaiah 30v21 (NIV):

“Whether you turn to the right or the left,

Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

‘This is the way.

Walk in it.”

 

It’s a few years down the line now, and I find myself in a similar position, although, somehow, with a lot less certainty that I’ll work out where I want to go. It’s hard not to feel that this last year I’ve been on a wrong path, as things haven’t really turned out the way I expected. But nothing in God’s kingdom is wasted and I know at the very least I’ve learnt a lot about myself and how to rely on God more.

Yet, it has been so comforting to come across these pictures and those passages again.  I know that I am on a journey and that wherever I am going, God is not only going with me, but He is already preparing the way ahead of me.