Lives that matter: Overseas and at home

I have been debating if I should post something given all that is happening in the USA since the murder of George Floyd. What can and should a white, mid-thirties female in Australia say? Should I say anything at all?

And so now…

I want to make sure that the Black community in the USA feels a global outpouring of love.

We have heard your voice across the sea. To honour and support you, I turn my attention to see where racism lies in my own culture. I will admit that I am often blind to the difficulties others face because of their skin colour or ethnicity. I pledge to learn and educate myself further. It is not enough to say I am not a racist, I need to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of the injustices that people face every day.

I have decided to provide links to a few articles, resources and ways to get involved that can help us find our way. These are only a few, but they also point to other places to become educated.

This ABC Hack article. There are many links in this article; I highly, highly recommend it.

Australians Together – Resources for Australian Churches

Common Grace – Resources for Australian Churches

Bridging the Gap Foundation

First Australians (Documentary)

The Little Red Yellow Black Book

Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country (Book)

AIATSIS

NAIDOC Week

Lastly, here are details for rallies in Australia on Saturday 6th June 2020.

I know within my own community there are many people who have more experience in this area, so please feel free to list other resources in the comments section (either here or via social media).

Stay safe, stay wise, keep learning and keep loving.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I found this segment by James Corden powerful.

What to do with Frustrating Friends

Dear Frustrated Friend,

UUUUGGGHHHH! I can hear it in you already. Your friend just shared something with you and all the alarm bells are going off in your head. They have either told you about something you have already warned them not to do or they are making the same mistakes anew. It’s incredibly frustrating.

You are allowed to be frustrated.

I almost feel like creating a secret space for you to let it all out. A place where you don’t feel as though you are betraying your friend. Maybe you could call me up anonymously, vent to me and I’d nod my head and say “Yep, they are crazy” and then we’d hang up and you’ll feel better. 🙂

It’s so hard when you see friends making bad decisions, because you want to be there for them and let them know that they are making a huge mistake. What is a friend to do in those moments? Let’s look at the options.

Two options: Say something or say nothing.

Both of these options have positives and negatives and your preference will mostly depend on how you view your role and responsibility in friendships. Some of you will always say something, while others will always keep silent; whatever you chose is fine with me.

I find for my own personal sanity, my preference is to lead people through questions which challenge their thinking or motivations rather than pointing out obvious blunders. I’ve always felt that if people find the answers themselves, they are more likely to take it onboard. Honestly, no-one really likes to be told what to do. I’m probably more gentle than I should be at times, but that’s how I function best. I have tried it other ways and it usually didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.

No matter the style we adopt, we should always remember that whatever our friends go through, their decision to listen to us is not about us. We can’t control and never should control others – even if it would be easier at times. 🙂 I’m joking… I am not responsible for other people’s choices and I refuse to be. I have carried the imagined burden of responsibility and I ended up with heart palpitations, so I stay far away from that one now.

Regardless of what happens, remember that now is the time when you will demonstrate exactly what love looks like. You can love someone and disagree with their choices. You can also love someone and place a boundary around what you are willing to discuss with them. So how do you love them well and keep your own sanity?

Two Options: Stay close or love from afar

Let’s pretend you (or others) have spoken to your friend and they didn’t listen and it’s so very frustrating. Why do they keep you around if they don’t value what you say? It might actually hurt too much to see them blindly or willingly walk into a bad decision.

You can choose to keep the door open, keep the communication flowing so that if and when they fall, they know you are a safe place. This will take time, patience and a loose grip. You won’t be the one to say “I told you so”. If you get the urge, just call that frustrated friend line I mentioned before and tell it to me 😉 I’d nod and say “Yep, you were right”. I will then encourage you to hold onto you empathy and know your limitations.

As upbeat as the song above is, there can be certain friendships which push you beyond your limits. May I suggest, if you can no longer stand it anymore, that you can actually love someone from afar. You don’t have to stay up-close to witness the mess of their life. It doesn’t mean you have stopped loving them, it’s ok to step back… it really is. You may need to start the slow pull back because it’s too hard to watch as they blindly walk into more seemingly obvious pain. It is totally fine to step back and it can be very wise.

Sometimes to love a friend and look after yourself you need to stay, and sometimes you need to leave.

At the end of the day I know that your heart is good and you want the best for your friend (seriously, you are reading about friendship). Hold onto your love no matter what you do. Hit me up for an imaginary phone call and I’ll validate all your frustrations while you navigate the best way forward in your friendships. Trust your instincts on how to move forward. You’ve got this.

Love Jess xxoo

Dear Lonely Soul

Dear Lonely Soul,

I thought I would write to you and let you know that I’ve been thinking of you this week. You see I know what it’s like to feel the way you do; I have been there. Of course our stories won’t be the same, but our hearts will have known the same sense of exclusion. That feeling you get of being alone in a room (or chat-room) full of people, I have felt this many times over too. I understand the sinking feeling of isolation and wondering if there is anyone who truly understands you. It is intimacy in friendship that you long for, not just surface conversation, but to have someone really ‘get you’ and be in your corner.

My own story stretches over the first three years of being a Pastor’s Wife and Youth leader, surrounded by people yet dying on the inside. I doubt many people outside of Tim and maybe my Mum would have known about it at the time. On the outside, I was connected and extroverted, on the inside it was a whole other story.

Take it from me, leadership can be very, very lonely; those people you see on the stage, they want authentic friendship too. The irony was that Tim and I were cultivating community on a weekly basis, trying to create a place where every teen could be known and belong. I loved connecting with the teens who most would consider on the ‘outer’, because I understood them; I never quite fit either.

Lonely heart, I know you are in your story right now. I know the crushing feeling, the ache in the heart that won’t go away; the desire to know and to be known is strong. To have people love you for your thoughts, not just your edited actions is so releasing.

I know what it’s like to have these heartfelt desires. Oh, how I know it. Ironically, you are not alone in your loneliness. It’s something that many people, regardless of their age, stage or location experience. It is surprisingly more common than we think.

I cannot walk your journey for you and the truth is that for many of you, I won’t even be able to walk it with you. I can’t not give you those relationships that you desire, but I will give you three thoughts from my ‘lonely years’ which might be helpful:

Persevere Lonely Soul

I had two people tell me this during my own three years of loneliness. Any time I felt the desperation overwhelming my soul, I would remind myself to persevere. I have a love/hate relationship with the word, because perseverance is not enjoyable or ‘sexy’, it is necessary. May it be your source of strength as it was mine.

Ask for a friend

The second thing I learnt was to ask for and keep looking for friends. I asked God over and over for friends whom I could be my true self with. It took a while for them to come, two years in fact from when I first asked, but eventually He brought me a Liz, and a Jess and a Bec. The perfect friends for that season. They become my life-line and I am still grateful for them to this day. Bizarrely I had already known these ladies for years, but it just seemed to be the right time for our friendship to change and become closer. I didn’t even realise they were there until God opened my eyes and I opened my heart. So if you currently believe in God or not I would encourage you ask Him, ask Him for friends today and I will ask for you as well.

You are not forgotten

One of the big lies is that you are invisible – both humankind and God have forgotten about you. Well that is not true, you are still seen even in this season. This post may be the very sign you need right now.

Lonely heart, God won’t stop talking to me about you, prompting me to pray for you, asking me to reach you through the screen and through your tears and say that YOU ARE SEEN. He wants you to know that He hasn’t forgotten about you and that he cares so much about your soul. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s ok to be different. Your ‘people’ are coming. Persevere.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

It is a difficult place you find yourself in and I can’t bring myself to offer empty platitudes as they won’t fill your heart. However, as someone who has been there I can offer you hope instead. In your loneliness today, you happened to read these words and I trust you realised that you are not alone. God (the universe or whatever) is reaching for you right now to lift your heart. I am praying for you and believing that God will bring people your way or open your eyes to undeveloped friendships. Persevere Lonely Soul as I did, this moment in time is not the sum of your whole life.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – This song (although old now) was one I used to sob to on repeat – it was God’s promise to me.

Breaking up with Ideal Jess

This is a break-up story.

One of my biggest personal struggles is against perfectionism, or perhaps more accurately, comparison to my Ideal self. Ideal Jess is wonderful on paper, so I do understand why I have held onto her for so long. She is gorgeous, very funny, never says the wrong thing, is highly intelligent and articulate but is also still very relatable. Ideal Jess makes everyone else feel at ease as she is at ease within herself. She can also sing, paint and write effortlessly, in fact she is naturally talented at everything. You name it and Ideal Jess can do it, be it, face it and overcome it.

I desperately want to be her at times. Other times I know I wouldn’t like her at all, she would intimidate the hell out of me.

I have this perfect version of who I should my head and I often punish myself for not being her.

I was holding myself hostage to the impossible. I was trying to be someone I was not—but even worse, someone I could never be.
– J. S. Park

I was recently given the opportunity to review a book before its release and the timing couldn’t have been better. Have you ever had those? It was the right book, with the right words, at the right time. In his book The Voices We Carry, author J.S. Park unpacks eight types of voices that we hear in our heads and one of them was self-condemnation. By giving examples from his own life, I recognised myself in his words and I’ve gotta say, I really was seriously impacted and changed. I realised I was still (after all this time) in a toxic relationship with my Ideal Self, continually comparing myself to her. I was in love with the idea of her far too much.

All those demands and expectations and absurd parameters needed to be laid down. I needed to mourn my “best self.”
– J. S. Park

Yes, improvement and growth are important to me, but I was measuring my own progress against Ideal Jess, not against who I really am. I was Eve in the book of Genesis holding the forbidden fruit, desperately reaching for equality with God and trying to be perfect like He is. The main problem was that my reality was far away from Ideal Jess and realising that constantly left me feeling like an ashamed failure.

… If I could lay down my idealized self and embrace my limitations, I could learn to like the person I really was and figure out where I needed help. Maybe then I could fail without it crushing me. Maybe then I’d feel like less of an impostor, because I wasn’t trying to be everybody’s idea of what I should be. Maybe then I could quit running myself ragged up the side of a cliff called perfection. I could even enjoy my own success once in a while.
– J. S. Park

I love how growth comes when you least expect it. Reading J. S. Park’s book was a catalyst for me to experience a deeper level of understanding and breakthrough in perfectionism. I love how God in his kindness and gentleness, uncovers things when I’m ready. I felt free when I worked through this stuff with Him, not condemned (which I would have in the past). I was ready to breakup with Ideal Jess.

And so, we broke up.

Perhaps sometimes I will be tempted to reach out and compare myself to her, but now I’m aware that it’s a toxic relationship that I definitely don’t want to let back in.

Since ‘the break-up’ I have experienced subtle but beautiful changes in my thoughts and actions. I have allowed my mind to be at ease when I ponder things like purpose and legacy. Instead of feeling disappointed, I feel inspired. Instead of feeling like a failure, I feel secure in where I am on my journey. I am settled in my skin.

I share all this with you dear reader because it can be encouraging and enlightening to see someone else’s journey. The decision and willingness to challenge long-held ideas can be uncomfortable, but absolutely worth it. Feel free to be inspired by my imperfections. 🙂

Plus let’s be honest, everyone loves a dramatic break-up story, as long as it’s someone else’s. 😉

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I originally stumbled across J.S Park through the WordPress Reader and man, I thank God that I did.

Today your name is Courage

Courage (noun):

Oxford defintion

  1. The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.
    “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
  1. strength in the face of pain or grief.
    “he fought his illness with great courage”

Cambridge definition
The ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation:

I have been thinking about courage recently. How do we encourage people when they most need it and what words, thoughts and actions rouse that fighting response within us? What words could I say that would lift your spirit and cause you to realise that you can face what you are facing? As you look at big changes or a difficult situation, is there some arrangement of words that will cause you to believe that you can do this? I really feel like there is someone who needs an injection of courage today – don’t we all.

Today dear reader, if you will allow me… I’m going to change your name to Courage. Today, your very identity (the name that you will be known by), is the very word you so need in this session. Today, you ARE “the ability to control fear in the face of difficult situations”. It is who you will be today and I will join you and also be called Courage. Together we will remind ourselves that courage is in our very human nature and is fused into our DNA. If you don’t feel it right now let me call out of you, it’s a part of you and it is there. If you need to, visualise wrapping it around you like a blanket or donning it like a cape.

Dear reader-in-need, you can do this. Whatever you are facing, there is courage in you yet and with gritted teeth you will get there, one step at a time. Courage is the big breath in and the realisation that you can and will take the next step. You are courage today. I know I have written about bravery and similar topics before, but I know you need to see these words today. Heck, sometimes I need to see them hourly! So, I am on your side right now in this moment; the little cheer squad in your corner 🙂 I treasure you. I see you. Today, your name is Courage.

Love Jess Courage xxoo

PS – Yessssa

Examining expectations for a post COVID-19 world

In my country some of the social distancing restrictions are starting to be lifted and it looks as though ‘normal life’ is on the horizon. It is not here yet, but we can see it’s coming. However, while we are still in country-wide lockdowns and focused on ‘surviving’ isolation, I have started pondering how we are going to ‘survive’ returning to a new normal. Have we given any thought on how to navigate the changed social and employment landscapes? If we don’t at least start thinking about it, we may be setting ourselves up for a harsh and emotionally draining return.

Although I want many areas of my life to function the same way they did before COVID-19, there will be changes that I have no control over and honestly, I’m not going to like some of it. However, I can minimise my frustrations by preparing myself mentally and examining my expectations. As my future mental health may be at stake here, I know it will be wise to take stock of the employment and social climate and adjusting accordingly.

Let’s take a moment to examine them together:

  1. Employment

Our economic landscape will look vastly different as people pick up the pieces of businesses that might once have been financially viable. We are aware that some businesses will never open their doors again and most of the ones that do will have to adapt to absorb the economic downturn.

For employees:

If you are fortunate enough to still have a job, you may face a workplace that has changed and you may be disappointed if it’s not what you expected. You might be faced with condensed hours, a pay-cut, location change or altered role etc. Navigating modified working conditions can be frustrating and exhausting; be prepared for some emotional reactions. To help you cope, I would recommend you ask your employer questions. If you can gain understanding, it will do a world of good towards handling this next stage well. Try to ask smart questions not emotionally loaded ones:

  • Do you know how long this new arrangement be in place? Are these changes temporary or long-term?
  • Can we review the new conditions of employment monthly?
  • For me to help us achieve our goals, what is the business plan moving forward?
  • Please help me understand the rationale behind this?

Most importantly, find out what’s happening within your industry. Understanding your current business environment is key for you to know what is appropriate in your own workplace and if you’re being taken advantage of. A bit of independent research will help you shape realistic (instead of idealistic) expectations.

For employers:

How are your workers going to go when they finally return to work? I’m sure you’re aware that some modern-day employees won’t take your necessary changes well, especially if you have to alter long-standing arrangements. They will want to know the why and they will have questions. I would implore you to have constant and honest discussions with your employees, even if you don’t have the all answers. Give your employees something to get behind, let them feel like they are in this fight with you. If you leave them guessing, I can almost guarantee that they will become suspicious about the information you are giving them. Is it annoying for you? Possibly, but open communication, especially after this collective traumatic experience, will do wonders for worker morale . Remember that people are already on edge and uncertainty is our currency now. Anything you can do to alleviate workplace insecurity will foster a smoother return-to-work transition.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Social interactions

I anticipate there will be a rush of social events when social distancing restrictions are lifted. Extroverts will need to recharge with others and their social interactions will be pivotal for healing. However, I suspect some of them, fuelled by a desperate need to connect, might feel entitled to people’s time. The danger is having unrealistic expectations of how others will interact with us and the disappointment that will inevitably follow. Alternatively, introverts won’t need extra events and might find increased social activities draining. However, being apart of a community means they may need to step outside their comfort zone to cultivate relationships. It’s also important to be mindful of people with mental and physical struggles; their recovery and readjustment to a ‘new normal’ might take longer than we think it should. With all our different personalities there is bound to be social pressure, push-backs and misunderstandings as we muddle forward. We are all going though a season of radical change, but the way we handle it and how we recover will differ for every person. Let’s keep exchanging kindness and offer compassion to those around us.

In our desire to return to ‘normal’ we will undoubtedly require more grace and wisdom than before and I know we are already pushing our emotional limits. However, if you are aware and prepare for a bumpy return, you’ll find the road a lot easier and less disappointing. Before society starts lifting the COVID-19 restrictions, take a moment to see if you have any hidden, unrealistic expectations. Start with these three questions:

  1. Do you have realistic expectations around return to employment and social gatherings?
  2. Are you prepared for some disappointments?
  3. How will you navigate this next phase?

Take stock and readjust as needed. This may very well be your most important self-care task this week. Remember, this has been a traumatic experience and everyone reacts differently, prepare yourself well and you’ll set yourself up to start strong.

Love Jess xxoo

I’m sorry I didn’t notice you: Thank you to my WordPress Community

This one is for my WordPress Community,

Firstly, I’m sorry I didn’t notice you for so long. I really am sorry. When I started this blog back in July 2013 it was solely to connect with our family and friends whilst overseas. I honestly didn’t pay you much attention, but now almost seven years later, I hold you close to my heart.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, I can step into other countries and cultures whenever I want. I can access different perspectives, expertise and expressions and it warms my heart. You are helping me grow as I experience life through your eyes.

This morning I had some time on my hands as the kids sat quietly eating breakfast, so using the App Reader I searched through posts about: joy, creativity and photography. I was amazed and inspired by you; all of us working away, investing time (and often money) to share our hearts with others. Some of you had lots of followers and others, just a few, but that really didn’t matter to me. To me, your expressions were not considered as ‘important’ depending on how many followers you had. I felt so grateful in those moments as I poured over words written in South Africa, Portugal, Australia, Brazil, India and England.

So, thank you. From me to you, strangers on the internet, thank you. I know it can be hard sometimes, anyone who has been blogging for more than 6 months knows this, but keep going. Did you know that some mornings the first thing I think about is refreshing my reader feed to see if any of you have created something new while I was sleeping?

Sending you lots of gratitude.

Love Jess xxoo

Maybe You’re Weak: One Question for Dealing with Unhelpful Thoughts

I had this thought this week… “Maybe you’re just weak” and I had to decide what to do with it.

Do you struggle with unhelpful negative thoughts? During this season we might be confronted with more of them, or perhaps it’s that we’re more aware of them as we are forced to sit with our internal worlds. I thought I’d tell you a little story to provide an example of one of the techniques I use when dealing with unhelpful thoughts, but as you read the ‘story’ remember that life is not a competition of how ‘bad’ we have it over another person. It’s the processes/tools/skills that we learn that help us overcome things, not the size of the mountain we are facing 🙂

I had one particularly awful morning this week. I had a demanding two-year-old, a restless Prep student and a confused Year 3 student all needed my help and attention and man-oh-man I felt the pressure, especially when my son threw an attention tantrum. Bless. It was difficult and my adrenal system was pushed to the max. I’m sure many other people (regardless of family situation) could say they have had similar moments. You know those moments when everything is just so overwhelming and there is noise and there are intense physical and emotional demands and you still have to push on? Yep? It was one of those mornings.

Later in the day, as I talked to God about the morning, I heard myself think “Maybe you’re just weak”. Ouch. Super brutal right? In days gone by I probably would have agreed with that thought and wondered how everyone else seemed to be stronger than me. The spiral would start from there until I’d end up doubting my self-worth and abilites. However, I’ve grown a lot in recent years, so I quickly caught that thought and did this simple internal exchange…

Thought:         Maybe you’re just weak.

Question:         Jess, is this thought helpful?

Answer:           No.

Response:        Ok, well thank you mind. Moving on.

(Some of you might recognise this as ACT – Acceptance Commitment Therapy)

Let me break the process down a little for you. I have a positive or negative thought which may or not be true. However, regardless of whether it’s true, I ask myself… “Is this thought helpful?”. Will it motivate, encourage, inspire, push me to growth or change? If not, then maybe it’s actually accusatory, full of judgement, guilt, shame, and draining my energy. After questioning the usefulness of a thought, I can then determine if it’s something I should discard or something I need to pay attention to.

It’s amazing how challenging my thoughts with a simple question can release me from a toxic spiral. What I love about this process is that even if the thought is unhelpful, I still thank my mind. I am not judgemental and beating myself up for having the thought, I’m simply acknowledging it and letting it go. I used to struggle so much with that. As I identified negative thoughts, I would judge myself harshly for even having them *cough perfectionist*, which would only cause me to become more and more anxious. Now, I am continually learning how to let go of thoughts that I don’t need, like dropping leaves into a river, sweep them away with the current.

Bible readers will see this same wisdom reflected in 2 Corinthians 10: 4-6 (NIV):

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

I often read these words or heard sermons about it, but I was never taught what it meant to hold a thought captive or what to do with it. I fought against myself for having the thoughts because I believed that I shouldn’t have had them in the first place. I thought I needed to control them, make them obedient, pray against them – it was awful. Let me suggest that holding a thought captive might actually be about knowing which ones to let go of and which ones to keep. I’ve come to learn that when it comes to thoughts, “captive” is not about pulling it close and examining every aspect of it or desperately trying not to think about it (which only makes you think about it more). For me assessing a thought is about quickly catching it in its infancy and asking that simple question… is this helpful? What’s its source? Is this from God or is it the accuser? You don’t have to fight the thought; you are fighting if you chose to believe it or not. I know this little section is for someone particular and although I don’t know who, I’m writing it just for you to read 🙂 I hope you find peace and release if you have been struggling with how to walk this scripture out, the good news is that it’s not as difficult as we thought. It’s always Good News right?

I know this is an unusual time for us all, so don’t worry, I am fully aware that the thought I had about being weak is not true. However dear reader, don’t focus on whether or not the thought was true, because sometimes thoughts are in fact true. Don’t focus on whether or not the thought was positive or negative, because sometimes positive thoughts can keep us stagnant while negative thoughts can be the gateway for great change, innovation and motivation. Focus instead on whether or not the thought is helpful.

Toxic thoughts are everywhere:

I can’t do this.
I might fail.
I’m not important.
I have nothing to offer.
I never do anything right.
I wish I was more like (insert person’s name here)
This is never going to end.
I can’t see a way out of this right now.
Maybe I’m weak.

Yes, unhelpful thoughts will come, but maybe you just need to say “thank you mind’ and move on.

Love Jess

PS – If this has spoken to you in some way, I highly recommend the book The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris, it was significant in teaching me how to deal with my thought-life.

Leaving what’s heavy: How do you process?

We all process moments in our lives differently and as I am eternally curious about the people around me, I wonder how you are processing the things that you are going through. How do you process your thoughts and feelings dear reader?

I find I am an interesting mix of both the internal and external processing styles; it often depends on the context. If this terminology is new to you, basically the internal processors turn inwards to examine their thoughts and look at them by themselves. External processors like to talk out loud with others to help organise the often-jumbled mess in their minds. I found this great article for you to read if you want to understand the styles more 🙂

I process in two ways and the first one is journaling. Not every day, but whenever I feel led. Needless to say, I am writing a lot more at the moment to keep my mind clean. My pages are full of thoughts and questions for God. There are quotes, song lyrics, conversations I’ve had and bible verses that I like or challenge me. There is little structure and no rules on how much ink should take up the page. For a mind prone to anxious thoughts, journaling is the easiest way for me to do to slow them down. Writing down my thoughts forces them to slow down to the pace at which I can write. It makes me focus on one idea at a time instead of having them splinter off into every direction. I find journaling is the best method to use for looking after my mental health and grow as a person. I’m relatively self-aware because I take time to examine what is going on inside my heart, soul and mind. In the quiet I reflect and understand how I am handling the things that are going on around me. I write down the heavy things on my heart and am continually learning how to leave them on the page.

Today after writing down my scattered thoughts I had a moment of peace. I sat in my outdoor area while the kids played peacefully inside by themselves. I had my earphones in listening to my favourite songs while a gentle breeze played with my hair. The butterflies were exploring the garden and the clouds made pictures in the sky. It was an intermission moment, a moment to unload, a moment for stillness and resetting. Bliss.

Apart from writing my secret thoughts onto pages, the second way I process by talking with my nearest and dearest. When I’m struggling to put thoughts together, I like to bounce them off others. I enjoy having back and forth conversations to dig deeper into my internal contemplations (my husband and close friends know this well). As I chat transparently with my friends, they hear the rough drafts of my thoughts and ideas and witness as I shape them into something more concrete.

As you can see, in one way I process by myself and in another I dialogue with people around me to understand how I feel about a certain topic. Both are equally important for me as I navigate different seasons of life and more so right now. Facing my internal world and accepting it, even if it’s uncomfortable, gives me strength to move forward. This leads me back to you dear friend. I wonder what things you do to interpret what’s happening in the world around you and the state of your heart. When your emotions burn high, how do you acknowledge or come to peace with them in a healthy way? Do you step back and process by yourself or call a friend and pass ideas back and forth? Are you even taking the time to look at them? If not, I hope you have the courage to do so this week, because it really helps. Please know that I’m thinking of you.

Love Jess xxoo

Finding Purpose: From Grand to Gentle

How are we meant to find purpose in a season like this? Many of our ‘Grand Plans’ are just not achievable. It’s not that we don’t want to do them, we are literally not allowed or perhaps we can’t afford to anymore. Heck, even baking at home now requires me to do a budget check. Everything is on hold, but it feels kind of different to other seasons of being ‘on hold’ doesn’t it? There’s not much negotiation here – everything is paused. The danger is that we punish ourselves for it and end up feeling helpless and hopeless. Remember, you may still may need to let go and hold on multiple times a week. I absolutely adore the quote below which showed up on Instagram. I’ve been slightly disturbed at the heavy criticism we are aiming at ourselves and others, because now is not the time for judgement, it’s the time for grace and gentleness.

Like many of you, I’m without work and am at home all day with the kids. Finances are stretched and people’s emotions ebb and flow, crashing into each other as we share the same space. Some days I’m full of energy, vision and hope, while other days, I don’t want to see one more positive quote or see someone else’s gratitude post. I find myself wondering how to endure something like this when we don’t know how long it will last. Apart from leaning into God for reminders of my self-worth and identity, I still long to add value to the world and contribute something more than daily domestic chores.

I would suggest that if a lack of vision or purpose is getting us down, we could move from ‘grand plans’ to ‘gentle plans’. Grand plans often require long-term vision, access to services and funds, prolonged motivation and clear goals. Gentle plans are short-term, simple and achievable right now, but idealy still bring you joy or a sense of accomplishment. Gentle plans can change daily because what was working yesterday, may not work today. Gentle plans are less likely to be time dependant, but they can still be something you can work towards. They may not be Grand or life-changing for others, but in this season they may just be the life-line we need.

Here are some examples of gentle plans (not all mine):

  • Clean out the hallway cupboard
  • Cook something new or an old favourite
  • Intentionally connect with someone (gotta love technology)
  • Write a list of things to study when you can and find out where you can do it
  • Find a place to volunteer your time/skills
  • Fix that fly screen that’s been bothering at you for a while
  • Start looking at your resume
  • Exercise for 30 minutes
  • Do something creative
  • Watch that movie classic you’ve never watched
  • Plan your next local holiday for when ISO is lifted.

Do you have any gentle plans? If you are feeling lost, it might be worthwhile writing some down. Whatever plans you think of, some days they will feel achievable and easy while on other days, they will drain the life out of you, so remember to hold them gently. If today you just can’t, that’s totally fine and honestly it’s to be expected at a time like this. You’ll be pleased to know I spent almost an entire day in bed binge watching a show on Netflix and I didn’t feel guilty at all. I recognised that that’s what was going to happen that day, that’s all I had; I needed to switch off and do nothing for myself.

I write these words as a reminder just as much to myself as to you dear readers. Right now, some of us won’t have Grand plans, some of us will simply have daily, getting us through, finding our way plans. We’ll probably get back to the Grand plans one day, but for now, Stay Healthy.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Somethings are too beautiful not to share and this new song release Otago by Brett Anthony Shaw is absolutely breathtaking. I feel like all manner of dances, art works, writings and reflective creations should be produced and enjoyed while listening to it. It feels like a healing balm on a blistered soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am; I have it on repeat on Spotify.