Kindness is love with its sleeves rolled up.
You know those seasons where life-as-you-know-it seemingly changes and you’re suddenly in a season of transition? Sometimes these moments are the best moments, unattached, exciting, enjoying-the-ride moments. Sometimes we don’t even notice big moments until they’re over because we have our heads down and are so focussed on the thing in front of us, or ‘making it through’.
The season of transition I’ve recently been through wasn’t like that because I was completely aware of it - for better or worse. But even through the waves of anxiousness which hit me, I was also very aware of God’s presence in the midst of it all.
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We frequently have friends round for dinner, some weeks it is almost every night. This time of the year is a transition time for lots of people and in the past few weeks/months, friends often arrive looking tired and weary but also relieved not to be alone and to have company to help ease tense bodies and heavy hearts.
What I love about these times spent talking and laughing and refilling plates is listening to what everybody has to say - whether happy stories or sad stories or words of encouragement or wisdom / prayer (which sometimes even moves people to tears). It’s in these moments that God’s presence and provision are tangible and our dining room becomes a sanctuary from the harsh, unpredictable world.
In these tough, demanding seasons of transition we’ve grown closer as friends, learning from each other’s stories and dreaming about the future, as part of a closer community. All of us would like to know the reasons why we’re experiencing seasons of uncertainty, heartache or grief. But as we come together and are surrounded by those we love, it is not impossible to see God in and around our conversations and laughter.
The dichotomies of these seasons of transition are obvious and strange. It is one of the most disconnected times in life - no job, no place to be, no strings attached. But it is also one of the most connected times in life - feeling part of such a strong and supportive community.
But I’m re-learning that, that is how God works. He makes beautiful things out of broken things and He does more than we could ask for or imagine, through situations we never anticipated. It is because we endure the hard and uncertain times, that we are led to better, more vibrant, God-breathed moments, which give us joyful hearts, a couple more crow’s-feet and wider smiles.
All my love, always.
P.S. If you’re going through a season of transition at the moment, surround yourself with those you love, who will comfort and encourage you and pray with you. And remember that God’s hands are at work, all we have to do is trust Him and open our eyes to see Him.
Guess what - in September, I will be Miss D to a lovely bunch of Year 3s :)
My own class! I am so happy and so excited (and a little terrified too)!
Thank you so much for sharing in my teaching journey with me - every step of the way - from the gruelling interview, actually being given an offer, the terrifying QTS tests, and throughout the PGCE year. You’re the best.
I really hope that you’ve had good news recently too.
All my love, always.
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Head whirling with decisions, people, emotions, tragedy, uncertainty, my feet pound the streets and carry me across the open fields.
God is constant - within this darkness, within this silence, within this restless soul.
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So, dear friends, do not be discouraged in the still and quiet days, but to keep pushing towards God and keep living life for Him, in faith that you will hear Him again, because God’s promises are louder than His silence.
You know those challenging seasons in life, where your to-do list is always growing and sad news seems to be around every corner? Weeks full of comforting tear-stained cheeks, feeling you’ve never fully achieved what you were supposed to or where you can’t quite catch your breath (no pun intended!); weeks where you feel you are just trying to get by.
These seasons are exhausting in every sense of the word.
Recently I realised, these seasons are exhausting because, once again, I’m trying to do everything in my own strength. Sometimes when I stop in the midst of the hustle and bustle and stresses of life, I realise that I haven’t prayed about these situations. It’s in these moments that I realise that I’m working my way towards burn out - I need comfort; I need energy; I need grace; I need rest that can only be found in Him.
Don’t get me wrong, after praying for it, I don’t suddenly have little minions doing my marking/lesson planning/job applications for me, I don’t suddenly have a burst of energy so that I accomplish everything on my to-do list, I don’t always even have a completely different attitude.
But, I am able to take a deep breath and face the day with joy and perspective.
These seasons are still exhausting, but laying my burdens down and admitting I can’t do it alone, is so liberating. Because I know God will help and guide me through. It is in His strength that I can do it - not my own.
So each morning I am able to drink my tea slowly and take note of all the things God has blessed me with. I only deepen my wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for all of these good things; good things that a good God gives.
Happy weekend, folks :)
All my love.
Somebody once told me about the loneliness she felt after her husband passed away, not only because she’d lost her best friend but because after it happened, many of the fellow parents on the school playground spoke to her, because they were too scared to bring it up and upset her. But this isolation made her time of grief so much greater - all she really wanted was to talk to someone, about nothing and everything.
I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to comfort those experiencing suffering and trauma lately.
Catherine Woodiwiss wrote a beautiful article entitled ‘A New Normal: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Trauma’, which inspired David Brooks to write about ‘The Art of Presence' in the NY Times. Whilst we all know that pain is a part of life, we never really expect it will happen to us. Yet when it does, suffering and trauma upends everything we ever take for granted. These are some things she learnt a long the way…
Presence is always better than distance.
Be there. People think that those who experience trauma “need space” to sort things through but assume the opposite, most people need presence because trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time, even when surrounded in love.
Healing is seasonal, not linear.
Be a builder.
Trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders”. Firefighters (the crisis team) drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders (the reconstruction crew) are there for years, who walk alongside as the victim and whose calm, steady care help them regain footing and live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles which is why trauma can be such a lonely experience.
Grieving is social, and so is healing.
Trauma is private and time/self-work bring healing, but ultimately we are wired for contact and it is through relationships that we can be most fully healed.
Don’t compare. Ever.
When someone we love is suffering, we want to comfort them. We offer assurances when we don’t know what to say, but sometimes these are clueless and careless. But each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness and each story should be heard attentively as its own thing. Trauma is terrible and what people need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow their own discomfort or fear, sit beside the victim and just let them be (terrible) for a while.
Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.
Love shows up in unexpected ways.
It’s strange how different people react after trauma, some near-strangers reach out, whilst close friends barely express care. Ultimately, every gesture of love, regardless of the sender, becomes a step along the way to healing. If there are beatitudes for trauma, I’d say the first is, “Blessed are those who give love to anyone in times of hurt, regardless of how recently they’ve talked or awkwardly reconnected or visited cross-country or ignored each other on the metro.” It may not look like what you’d request or expect, but there will be days when surprise love will be the sweetest.
The non-verbal expressions of love are as healing as eloquence. When Mary was living with Catherine during her recovery, some young friend noticed she didn’t have a bathmat. He went to the shop and got a bathmat. Mary says she will never forget that.
Trauma permanently changes us.
Do not say “you’ll get over it.” There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ - a major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake - there is no ‘back to the old me.’ This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. And the goal is to acknowledge and wear your new life — warts, wisdom, and all — with courage.
What doesn’t kill you…
"…almost kills you." Odd things show up after a serious loss and creep into every corner of life: anxiety in areas that used to bring you joy, detachment or frustration towards your closest companions, a deep distrust of love or presence or vulnerability. There will be days when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.
…Doesn’t kill you.
Woodiwiss writes that living through trauma may teach you resilience. It may help sustain you and others in times of crisis down the road. It may prompt humility. It may make for deeper seasons of joy. It may even make you stronger. It also may not. But in the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you.
All my love, always.
Christmas cake in January. Walks through the park. Exciting stamps when sending post. Pudding dates. Open pasture. Fireworks. Sun-beams in photographs. When something fits perfectly whilst packing. The awkward side step with strangers and the laughter that follows. Ticking things off ‘to-do’ lists. when you get to the counter and something is cheaper than you thought. The smell of fish and chips at the seaside. Christmas lights. Water splashes. Getting a drink in a take away cup. Sun-beams illuminating flowers and leaves. Getting into your pyjamas early. The sound of children’s laughter. Feeling organised. Sunsets. When an ATM gives you £5 notes. Fields of long grass. When the rain holds off until you’re inside. Putting on slippers. Nice smelling hand soap. A city’s skyline at night. Sharing food with friends around the table.
Have you ever been in a room with your favourite people and just stopped, looked around and realised how blessed you are?
I’ve been thinking a lot about it this year, since this day.
According to a 7 year old, love is “what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen”. I love this because there really is so much love in those moments. This year has brought countless times where I have felt that feeling of love, when I’ve stopped to look and listen to what’s around - but fortunately not just at Christmas time!
My Grandparents have been giving us Christmas activities to explain our Christmas presents for longer than we can remember. This year, to mark the final year of doing so, we read back through all of the different diary entries Grandma written over the years. It was lovely to hear of all those times she’d reflected on and was thankful for the days in which laughter and chatter filled the house.
So, this year, as 2013 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and have thought a lot about all of the things to be thankful for. This year has not been easy, it has brought many challenges, with health and family and work stress and lots and lots of change, but, at risk of sounding like a broken record, there have been so many things to be thankful for, too.
I’m thankful for the crunching sound of snow, time spent with friends, a place on the PGCE course, afternoon tea, unexpectedly fun weekends, Easter celebrations, fellowship with friends, being baptised, country walks which are always so good for the soul, going to BCDO, being able to see Ludovico Einaudi concert, weddings of dear friends, visiting Paris, graduating university, PFM and other summer adventures. And of course, the importance of remembering and being thankful for all those little things, which bring great joy.
I can’t say thank you enough, dear friends, for your support and encouragement and kindness; please know it has been such a comfort and I am so grateful. I really hope, and pray, that 2014 brings you lots of love and laughter and that whatever challenges you faced in 2013, propel you to your highest heights and greatest strength this coming year.
All my love, always.
I have recently uploaded a batch of new images onto flickr, which you can find: here!
If you decide to check it out, I really hope you like them.
All my love.