Where is your belief?

Watching the Olympics I have heard the word belief A LOT! When participants have been asked about their performance they have spoken about belief in themselves but also belief in their teams and from their teammates. That belief gave them a strength that they possibly didn’t realise they had.

When I looked up the word belief it said “trust, faith or confidence in someone or something” that’s what these olympians need, and it’s a great example for us to follow. Many of the contestants have been making the heart shape with their hands, as shown above. I think this has been because of the lack of support in the stadiums this year. They have been showing their encouragement to each other but also as recognition of the result of the encouragement they have received.

Belief is often associated with religions or the spiritual, and I think this is linked with another definition “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”. People believe in aspects of spirituality for many different reasons, maybe because of things they have been told or experienced; but it is their belief and that belief then gives them trust and confidence in the future.

So where does your belief lie? Is it in God? Or in yourself? Or maybe it relies on other people? I imagine for many people, although one maybe stronger it’s actually a mixture of more than one. The belief I have in myself comes from a belief in a God who created and loves me, but also from a community of people who believe in me as well. It’s taken me time to realise this, and to accept that I NEED that community at times when I’m struggling to find any belief in myself; but that’s OK when it’s all part of the journey.

I’m going to end this blog with the chorus of the title song of the movie ‘the Prince of Egypt’ hopefully you’ll see why – especially if you’re familiar with the movie!

“There can be miracles; When you believe; Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles you can achieve; When you believe, somehow you will; You will when you believe”

Who are ya?

I am in the process of completing this cross stitch that I was given as a birthday present. Just after I had started it I was watching the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Whilst I was watching there was a flag bearer who was wearing a gold sequin face mask. The commentators made a big deal about this because they said it made sense that she was going to the games with the mind-set of “I’m aiming to win Gold”. What’s the point of going for bronze? Yes the participation is important but there is always an aim for a Gold medal!

I then looked at my cross stitch. Do I need to have a different idea of who I am and what controls me? Do I need to have a different focus? I’m not sure of the answers but I think it’s something that is going to be on my mind in coming months.

Then when I went to Church this morning my friend was speaking on John 6:1-21 which is the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 and then walking on water. We were reminded that as Jesus was walking on water towards his disciples he said “do not be afraid it is me”. Yes the disciples are in a storm but they are also aware that have a miracle worker with them.

I feel I’m in a storm at the moment if completely honest. After Church this morning I was reminded I’m not in that storm on my own. THAT is part of who I am – believing that I’m not on my own, yes there will be times when I’m in storms but I can make it through. When I get through the storm I might be a different version of me but I’m still me and still not walking alone.

I think it’s important to have an equivalent of a gold face mask but we can’t let it take over. It can be a symbol for encouragement but essentially we need to be who we are, walking the journey we are on, changing as we need to and accepting it as it comes.

Lost

I can’t imagine that there is anyone who has never lost something. Maybe keys, an item of clothing, a ticket, the remote, and many more. What do we do when we have lost something? We look in various places, retrace our steps, lift up things, and probably ask other people.

How about when we feel lost ourselves? Again I imagine this something that most people have experienced.

Our actions will probably depend upon the cause of the loss in the first place. Is it relationships? Family? Work? Religion?

No matter what the cause of loss I think one thing that is essential is faith, faith that whatever has been lost will be found, or that something new can take the place. That is incredibly easier said than done. So how can it be done? I find that this is where other people come in. By talking things through there are paths that are found, it may take a number of walks down different paths which leads to tiredness, exhaustion and possibly even anxiety but one of those may lead to a place of comfort, belonging, clarity.

We all experience loss off some description, we need to make a decision about choosing to find, but I’m sure it is easier if we also choose to ask for help with the search.

Juxtaposed

Dad and Gav

The end of May and beginning of June is now such a time of juxtaposition for me. My birthday on the 31st May and then today (1st June) is the anniversary of dad leaving us.

Yesterday I celebrated my 40th birthday, and I was so pleased that I was able to celebrate with friends and especially happy that mum was able to come down from Birmingham. However there was a notable loss – dad sitting in his chair under a tree being visited by friends and, I imagine, causing trouble of some description and telling stories of me as a child and most definitely being sarcastic!

Today marks two years since dad left us, there’s part of me thinking it seems longer, but also part of me that thinks it seems no time at all. The simplest things remind me of him and the relationship we had.

White cliffs of Dover

Since mum came down we made sure we went to the white cliffs of dover which was dads favourite spot, especially sitting on the edge watching the ships come in. Then yesterday the husband did a speech saying we were like ships always coming in to safety. Life is strange, we never really know what’s going to happen. Yes, dad has left us physically but he will always be a part of my life and there will always be memories and reminders.

Eye of a storm

Yesterday I essentially got blown down to the bus station as the winds were so high. However, once I got to work, and was in my room although I could hear the wind blowing outside I was safe indoors. The eye of a storm is the centre of something like a cyclone, with crazy weather around it, but actually clear itself.

About three weeks ago I felt I was in a storm myself. In the space of 9 days I was crying at some point for 7 of them. I was ignoring close friends, and allowing things to get on top of me, and to be overwhelmed. One day I went for a walk with the husband we were talking. By speaking to him about what had been going on, but more importantly how I had been feeling, we were able to decipher what might help.

I’m someone who needs people even if sometimes it is just a “hello” as I also enjoy being alone! Must be very confusing for others. New situations at work mean I’m hidden away but also that everyone is running around; so to actually see anyone either to say hello or to spend time is difficult. However, for me to recognise that that wasn’t helping me, has, in itself, helped.

At the moment we don’t know what the weather is doing minute to minute let alone day to day; but we can be prepared for all conditions. I didn’t have a clue what was going on with me a few weeks ago. I couldn’t control the tears, and the way I was responding, but now I feel that when I’m in a storm-type scenario I can get to the eye. Knowing the storms are always going to be there but it is possible to move to safer ground.

(Apologies for any meteorological errors in the metaphor!)

He is Risen

“Alleluia, Christ is risen”

“He is risen indeed, Alleluia”

This is a call and response that I will hear and participate in numerous times, and that makes me so happy. Why? Because we are at what is arguably the most important and central point of the Christian calendar. I say arguably because some will say if Jesus hadn’t been born at Christmas then we wouldn’t have the life and teachings of Jesus; similarly if Jesus hadn’t been crucified on Good Friday then He wouldn’t have risen. But for me, it is that empty tomb on Easter Sunday that shows what was accomplished and symbolises what was overcome and the power required to overcome it.

Jesus had told people what was going to happen but they didn’t understand, or did believe – well you wouldn’t would you? He seemed to willingly go through the most horrific death known, but it was because he knew that he couldn’t defeat death if didn’t die in the first place. And why? For us, every single one of us.

This is where Aslan and the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe come in handy. Edmund had betrayed Aslan and his brother and sisters by going to the White Witch. The White witch then said that she would kill Edmund as he had gone willingly to her. But Aslan gave his life in place of Edmund. Aslan was killed on the stone table, but the next morning the table was cracked in two and Aslan was gone. He then arrived to Susan and lucy, shining brighter than ever. They couldn’t understand it, but Aslan explained the White Witch didn’t know the deep magic – when someone innocent dies in the place of another death will be defeated and they will come back to life.

Humanity is Edmund, we all have gone away from God, whether it’s meaningful or not, but Jesus was the perfect human. So when, he was killed, he was killed in our place, he took the sacrifice, he defeated death and came back to life. Meaning that we could have eternal life as well.

So yes… Christmas is good… Good Friday important but…

“Alleluia. Christ is Risen”

“He is Risen indeed. Alleluia”

Apprehension

Earlier today I was starting to get some inspiration, so I messaged E with a random question – very usual behaviour I must add! The question was “would you say that apprehension is a strong characteristic of mine or one of my worst faults?” I told you it was strange – but bless her she responded, and I think it’s going to be easiest to quote her – with her permission.

“I think it is a character trait that all of us have but at times it is strong in you – for you it causes you to become anxious. Some might say you can over think which causes the apprehension to become worse. However I do believe you know this about yourself – it certainly is not a fault”

Crikey am I blessed to have a friend who knows me so well and who is so wise!

So why did I ask E this question in the first place?

I think it started when I was leading some training online earlier to one person, a colleague and friend who I have known for over 10 years. I was really nervous about it beforehand, had practiced on the husband this morning and was physically shaking all the way through.

I think I’m apprehensive in two ways physically and mentally

I’ve always been someone who has wanted to stay safe. When I was younger there were lots of things I wouldn’t try because I didn’t know what they would feel like. Even though other people, including my friends would try them I often wouldn’t. One example is escalators, my mum refuses to go down them, I always thought I was scared of them to, until I went down one and it was absolutely fine. Similarly with roller-coasters, I wouldn’t go on them, I then tried one and absolutely loved it and will now quite happily go on any of the big and scary ones.

In my teenage years and since, the diagnosis of epilepsy has not helped my general apprehension. With alcohol for example, I didn’t drink until just before 18, and then I wouldn’t mix drinks as I was scared of the effect to my epilepsy. When I would go out with my friends I would ALWAYS let my parents know if we moved to a different pub – this was in the days before mobiles – bet my parents and friends loved that. But I wanted to make sure they knew in case something happened.

Now I think my apprehension is much more mental than physical – but that’s probably more because I don’t put myself in those physical situations if we’re being completely honest.

Over the years I have done many public talks at church, church groups, collective worship (assemblies), I’ve received much positive feedback BUT nearly every single time before I do the talk I have a read through with E or Gav or both. I know I have had success before, but I do not have the confidence in myself. I worry about what the response will be. When I play keyboard and sing publicly I get so nervous, that I’m physically shaking.

At the moment the apprehension I’m having is in my work life and my personal life. I haven’t been in a classroom for a few months, I know I can teach, but all I can think about is everything I’ve missed, everything everyone else has done that I haven’t, everything that could go wrong, even though I know that it has been a necessity has been beneficial. Personally, One example is I want to get back to a point where I can go running again, but I’m apprehensive. I stopped running because my seizure frequency increased and I was twitchy most days and kept losing my footing, bad enough when walking but even worse when running. I did go for a run, last year, but as predicted I lost my footing and fell over, grazing my knee and hand quite badly. I also want to have confidence in my own ability.

I do think E is right I am aware of my apprehension, it does cause me anxiety – which I often don’t deal with well, and I probably do over-think a lot of things as well.

I’m not sure there is an answer. I don’t think I’m going to suddenly be a ball of confidence, taking a load of risks. But I do think I’m getting to a place where I’m feeling more confident about who I am. Maybe the next time I write a talk, I won’t need to read it through to E?

Optimistic? Pessimistic? Realistic?

It’s been a while but I was inspired when I was watching the news earlier. Amazingly the story wasn’t about the pandemic, pupils going back to school or THE interview. Instead it was an interview with Malala talking about her next project which is to do with a TV deal where she will be working on documentaries, chat shows, and she even mentioned her love of Black Adder! The interviewer asked her about her approach, would she consider herself an optimist or a pessimist? I guess my question would be – why are those the only choices?

I have probably mentioned this before but E is now in my phone as Bloody Positive Friend and she frequently signs texts with BPF! This is because she does encourage me to try to see the positive when I’m struggling. HOWEVER she recognises the reality as well.

I can, sometimes quite easily, get drawn down into a dip. I try to look at things positively but sometimes I find it difficult and I need my BPF to try and nudge me out but I like to think at all times I’m realistic. I’m learning, I hope, to be more realistic at the moment. As I return to work, and I recognise,with the help of others, what is appropriate for me to do.

For me, I see being realistic as recognising what could happen for the best, but also what could go wrong, with the basis of what is actually realistic. I am aware that this sounds utterly bizarre so let me try and give an example…

Shockingly I’m going to use the example of my brain. Although things have not been great with my epilepsy over the last year or two, I know that I have periods of time when it has been much better. This gives me hope to optimistically know that it could be considerably more controlled, and I could be trusted in the kitchen to cook again, or I will be back doing my job to its full, and I will be able to go for a walk without having to text someone.

However, I can also be realistically pessimistic, knowing that I may be trapped by this illness. That I may well have to take medication for my whole life, and will always have limitations – this is where the BPF will say something along the lines of ‘there is so much you can do’ which will possibly be followed by a list.

I think we are probably all optimistic and pessimistic at times, that is fine but I think realism is most important and we shouldn’t push people to be optimistic at all times or tell people off if there is some pessimism.

Changing quickly

Yesterday was the first time I had left the house since I was dropped off back from Church last Sunday. We’ve had snow and ice all week, the husband has been working strange shifts, so I would have had to go for a walk alone. I’ve been rather twitchy, and I figured twitchiness and ice was not a great combination.

Yesterday it was still white when you opened the window but the husband was available so we went for a walk. There was one slip but I kept standing. However, I would not have felt confident walking on my own. And we had to keep going from road to pavement to other pavement – it was rather complex – and that was considerably better than earlier in the week.

Today we opened the curtains and the paths were clear and the only remainder of snow was what was left of models – an example of which you can see above. We went to bed surrounded by snow and woke up to green grass and clear paths – the change was rapid and was an effect of the change in the weather.

I went for a walk again today to the other side of town to get my first vaccination jab. I was wearing completely different clothes – no need for hat and gloves; and just walking perfectly happily on the paths not worrying about whether I was going to slip.

Things can change so quickly but we can learn from the snow statues. They stayed, and are taking longer to go because more has been put into them, they have grown, they have left an impact. Are there elements of you and your personality that you think will leave an impact when other things around might change? Are there things you want to build on so that they will make an impact? Is there a change you think needs to be made quickly and how can you be a part of that?

Living?

This morning I heard someone say this phrase referring to lockdown and, I think pandemic life, in general.

“We’re not living, we’re existing”

I admit that this made me quite angry. There was talk prior to this about how they would never turn down an invite to a meal or a party ever again, but then said this phrase. Why did it make me so angry? Well because I disagree, because to exist needs life. That life may look very different but it is still life, it is still living.

Just before I heard that phrase I had spoken to my mum, and sung happy birthday to her. I haven’t seen her in person since October. However, we still have a strong relationship, possibly speak to each other more and actually see each other on screens more since lockdown.

There’s other people I’ve possibly also spoken to more since the pandemic. And if we go back to my previous blog of roots in my life I would have to say relationships is another one that is important for me.

I know other people have got fitter or healthier during the pandemic, others have started new crafts, others who have started baking and all sorts of other things. That sounds like a lot more like living than just existing.

In the picture at the top we can see an empty path, with dead leaves and dandelions growing through. At the moment it might feel like things are a bit empty, and our lifestyle is definitely going to be different, but that isn’t going to stop the light of tings coming through like the Dandelions.

I can’t wait to go to a pub, or out for a meal with friends and family, but that isn’t my entire life. There is a lot more to it and I’m sure I could find more.