Tag Archives: faith

Partially empty Christmas table

It’s ok–Christmas hasn’t been cancelled!

Across the world many will be experiencing a different kind of Christmas this year. The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked the world. In the UK, it’s been announced that many cannot spend it with anyone outside their household. I’ve heard people say “Christmas is cancelled” so I’ve felt moved to respond.

This year, people have been hit with loss beyond anything anyone expected, we’re beginning to try and pick up the pieces, hoping Christmas will help, then we’ve been told, a week before Christmas that we need to change our plans. Some will be feeling frustrated about the guidelines “constantly changing” or anxiety about spending Christmas in an unplanned way, some will be annoyed at the Big Brother treatment or overwhelmed with managing last minute changes. Personally, I’m angry and sad at people who’re incapable at following simple guidance, it’s the small minority spoiling it for the majority who’re now having to follow more stringent rules.

What’s important is, whatever you’re feeling, it’s valid and you give yourself space to feel what you’re feeling, while also understanding what you can and can’t control.

Let me explain

Your feelings are your feelings and no one can tell you what you’re feeling. You might even be feeling relieved—sometimes it can help to write down how you’re feeling or talk about them with a trusted friend.

Problems come when you deny your feelings, push them down or try to swallow them, they’ll come out eventually; you or those around you will suffer. We can’t control the virus or the guidelines set out by the government. What we can control is how we respond and keeping a positive attitude helps makes it easier to cope. A positive attitude doesn’t mean, pretending everything is fine!

Perhaps this year, we can learn from the first Christ-mas…

During her last trimester, the government ordered Jesus’ mum to take a long journey. How unsettling would this have felt?! But she didn’t complain, she just did as she was told. Does this remind you of anything?

Joseph considers leaving Mary as he thought she’d been unfaithful but he didn’t, he trusted God. How many people are angry at God, just now? Blaming him and asking “how”? Or “why”? Perhaps, instead, we can say, “please be with us in our troubles”? For he will be there in a heart beat, as soon as we reach out.

There was no room for Mary and Joseph but an inn keeper let them stay in his cattle shed. This year, how will you help the homeless or those less fortunate?

Jesus was born and laid in an animal’s feeding trough. At this time of year, it’s usually a time of plenty where food and materialism takes centre stage. Some people, this year won’t have enough food, How great would it be if our children grew up appreciating the smaller things in life instead of ‘needing’ the lasting gadget due to FOMO?

Mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and ginger bread biscuit

Christmas isn’t about presents, decorations or even about friends and family. This year, some people won’t be able to afford presents, may have lost their home and may not be spending it with anyone they choose but Christmas can be what you make it. Perhaps a lie-in, a spot of yoga, a walk and a Christmas movie while enjoying a some cheese and crackers will be what works this year? Perhaps you’d rather play an album of heavy rock a full volume while head banging and playing air guitar is your thing? This year is about doing what works!

It may not be possible to be with our loved ones this year but technology may bring us together. A short zoom call could bring some important connectivity.

Some thing good that occurred when the church building doors shut in March this year. Many churches are continuing the live stream all of the services. Perhaps this Christmas you could check out one of these? You’ll be able to find the Arch Bishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Facebook by using this link. My local church St Mark’s will be live on YouTube with all the links accessible from the website.

Family decorating Christmas tree

But what about all those traditions?! Maybe this is the year you re-evaluate whether you really want to continue all those traditions, is it time for new traditions? This is a great time to have a good think about what’s really important, have you been doing things the same every year just because that’s what you’ve always done? If you come to the conclusion that you really want to stick with everything you’ve always done, there’s always next year; but maybe you’ll see things with fresh eyes and realise that you don’t have to do things the same every year!

Remember this is just one year, one day, don’t put so much pressure on it that it’s spoilt. Be honest with yourself and those around you about how you’re feeling but don’t let those feelings control you. You can chose how you respond.

Reflection: Called to be humble

Being humble isn’t about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.

Being humble is not about being right but being concerned with what is right.

Being humble is about appreciating team attributes, recognising contribution or promoting others rather than promoting self and wanting recognition.

Of course, most people can recognise humbleness is an admirable quality but we can all be a bit introspective, push our personal ideals and want to be recognised at times, we’re only human; anyone who denies struggling with humbleness is only deceiving themselves!

As someone who has frequent brushes with depression, my self-esteem is pretty poor at the best of times, that is – I think very little of myself. I sometimes find myself looking to others for approval or gratification because I struggle to know if what I’m doing is good enough or if who I am is acceptable but I know, through years of therapy, that seeking this from outside is unhelpful and generally, unfruitful. With a low self esteem, I’ve also unfortunately neglected my needs because I think I’m not worthy of care etc. But therapy has taught me it’s in these times when self care is most important. Self compassion and self care isn’t, as one fears, self indulgence, but in fact a vital part of keeping oneself healthy.

I have a quiet unassuming character and time after time what I do goes unnoticed, what I say gets forgotten or attributed to others, the polite requests I make are unfulfilled, for hours at a time even my existence is ignored even if there have been opportunities to notice me. At times my needs have been neglected (even if I’ve had the rare confidence to state them) to such an extent that I don’t know if it’s reasonable to ask for my needs to be met anymore. I have a strange belief about myself that to take up space or to be seen is improper so maybe I bring this treatment on myself? But, to be continuously treated like this, is it any surprise I think nothing of myself?

I frequently have the experience of someone asking a group of people a question, I answer the question but they continue repeating the question; it seems as though they’re more concerned with listening to themselves asking the question than they are the answer! Once someone (else) has managed to get them to listen to the answer, it’s rarely recognised that I answered the question the first time. I feel frustrated that I had the rare confidence to open my mouth and I needn’t have bothered; but if I was humble this wouldn’t matter.

People are so used to me blending into the background and going unnoticed, I was assertive a couple of times a few months ago in a environment where I’m not usually and this was so shocking to the people involved I’m still feeling the unpleasant after-quakes today!

Of course, this is not my only experience, there are plenty of people in this world who care about me and notice me – by default – if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably someone who cares, so I’ll use this opportunity to say thank you! This blog isn’t about having a go at the people who forget about me because, obviously they won’t be reading this! Most of them won’t even know I can write, let alone have a fairly successful blog; most of them, if they know my name, they won’t have a clue how important it is to me to spell my name correctly – to those who do, thank you!

Being humble is easier if your self-esteem is intact. I’ve been reflecting on humbleness and wondering where it fits in with my low self esteem. If I think so little of myself, how do I also think of myself less? How do I balance the self care and compassion that’s necessary to ensure I don’t neglect myself but then make sure I think of myself less?! I think the optimum word here is balance.

Being humble is also easier if other people notice you! But we can’t confuse humbleness with false modesty. Bringing up your contributions and achievements, so that you can be modest and humble about them is not the way to go! My naturally quiet character means other people won’t have a clue I’m being humble, but that’s not what being humble is about.

If I’ve managed to balance my self esteem issues, somehow and I’m now considering how being humble fits with other people – if I’m feeling forgotten and trodden on, if others are promoting themselves over and above me, as they do (because they’re more confident or down right arrogant) do I add to this and show appreciation for their attributes? Another one to ponder! Maybe it’s not about comparisons but simply about appreciating what is right.

So, while writing this, it happened again, I felt forgotten; in this moment I considered pointing out the work I’d done but it only took me a second to stop myself and realise I was looking for recognition from other people. I took a breath and realised, as a Christian, I’m called to be humble, it’s not just a nice-to-have. But, even when it’s hard, what helped me in that moment was that I remembered that God knows every action and every inaction of everyone on Earth. He knows how hard I work, he loves me just the way I am; he knows I wasn’t being humble in that second but he also knew I stopped myself and realised that humbleness was more important than recognition.

I’d worked incredibly hard and had been forgotten again. Recognition would be nice, yes, I felt hurt, I felt crushed, I felt let down, but in this moment, I chose to be humble and by turning to God in my pain, I’m choosing to deepen my relationship with him.

God made me, just the way I am, I’m a grafter, not many people know what I do or how hard I work and I certainly don’t get the gratitude most people would expect. But what makes it all worth it is that, I can turn to God and he knows exactly what I’m going through. Being a Christian isn’t about having an easy life, it’s about having a human life, serving the will of God in relationship with Jesus Christ.

How my faith has helped me during lockdown

When church buildings closed their doors, headlines made it sound as though religious and faith communities were going to halt proceedings. But during Mental Health Awareness Week I’m writing this blog to let you know how Christianity and my extensive Faith community has helped my through one of the strangest times any of us have seen.

I have been struggling with my mental health for all sorts of reasons and I’ve had to dial up the coping strategies to ensure I don’t slide down into the darkness.

For me, mindfulness and distraction are helpful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus on the here and now, ensuring your attention isn’t distracted by dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. I use crafting to distract myself from distressing thoughts, knitting is my favourite hobby at the moment!

Routine is vital for my mental health and I think the vast majority of us have had our routines jolted out from under us without our consent. I’ve heard lots of people struggling with weekdays and weekends feeling the same. I’ve been involved in producing church services that we can watch online as though we’re going to church at the same time each Sunday. Doing this has given me some purpose. We’ve also have Zoom-coffee after the service to catch up with friends afterwards. Staying connected has been really important for my mental health.

With church services online, people who didn’t attend church before lockdown can now easily access everything that‘s going on. This is a way anyone can separate weekdays from weekends if they choose. However, it’s also fantastic for those who’re working at the weekend, they can now access their church service any time during the week, when it suits them!

A recent Tearfund study revealed that more people than ever are turning to prayer. My husband and I pray together every night before bed; we find out from each other whether we have felt love from each other that day, ask for prayer requests and then pray, include prayers of thanks and pray for each other. This continued routine has helped me. Prayer helps me because it keeps me connected to what’s important. Sitting with my husband, even if it’s just for 5 minutes in the evening and focusing on a few simple things helps me to see what my priorities are.

Alpha is a course that introduces people to the basics of the Christian faith. Just like every other area of life, Alpha has moved online and more people than ever are engaging with Alpha online! Alpha addresses the big questions and gives an opportunity to address the meaning of life. People are being give more time to think and they’re wanting answers.

Some people struggling with the idea of God “allowing” this pandemic to happen but the God I believe in gave human being free-will and unfortunately this means we make mistakes. This pandemic is a man-made disaster and while God is omnipotent, he could stop it, this would completely negate the point of free-will. Instead, God has provided himself as a source, for us to rely on in times of need. I know, no matter how desperate I feel, if I rely on my relationship with God, I will get through.