Back on Track

5562062777_4b92786c3c_z

New Year’s Eve the time when you think about the year that has past and the hopes of the year to come. It would be very easy to focus on the not so good of the past year but instead I’m going to choose to focus on the good that the year has brought and what I have learnt to take in to 2018.

So what has 2017 brought?

A renewed sense of vocation for teaching

The academic year of 2016-2017 was not my greatest, and although there was a lot of stuff outside of my control I most definitely did not help the situation by any stretch of the imagination. I started this academic year with the mindset of it being a great year, and it’s been great. It’s been a killer at times, but having a different mindset has meant those killer times have been easier to get over and move on from. I have realised the joy that I get from being in the classroom, and there has been a definite sense that I am where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to be doing. Which, has got me through on many a day.

New work environment

It is amazing how a new base can make such a difference, but moving classroom over the summer really helped again with the feeling of a new start. Yes… I miss my view of the Cathedral… but I enjoy being part of a department as opposed to being on my own, and have developed new friendships which have given me strength and laughter when required. The classroom… the faculty… all in all has made life a lot more enjoyable and easier to get through the tougher times.

Reconnection with God

After a virus earlier in the year I took a sabbatical time.  Stepping back from things at Church, only doing my job at work, taking more time to focus on my relationship with God. Including two retreats. This was a phenomenal time, where I learnt more about myself and how I connect with God, as well as what God wanted to say to me. This included that I needed to be able to find more time to worship and read for myself. A realisation that for now my times of piano and sung worship are more personal than congregational. The energy I get from writing and delivering talks both for Church and School, but also the feedback that I get after as well. There have also been an awesome group of women who have been praying for me since April, and I cannot tell you how much I have felt the power of prayer and protection during this time.

So… those are just 3 personal highlights… but highlights all the same and I’m able to see some of the many blessings there have been.

And what are the plans for 2018? The essential plan (as you may have guessed from blog title) is to get back on track in terms of health but in 3 different ways.

Food

There has been a lot of comfort food eaten this year. Bad habits have been returned to. Clothes have got tighter. So 2018 is a year of going back to strict calorie counting. I always feel better when I’m eating better, and hey wouldn’t mind having to go and buy more clothes because mine are too big again!

Exercise

I have continued with walking to school, but may have been getting more lifts home! The running really hasn’t been happening, for a variety of reasons. Again, a habit I need to get back in to. I know how much better I feel when I’m running, and what it does to my mindset. December has not been a great month health wise with seizures, stomach bugs, and some weird chest/throat thing that has completely knocked me out! I am not sure how much that has to do with the fact that I have not been living a particularly healthy lifestyle. So… in case it has got anything to do with it… and because I know how much better I feel when exercising that has got to get back in to my routine. Let’s set a challenge… I want to be able to run 10km regularly by the summer holidays!

Spiritually

I have often written about how the changes I have made in my life over the last couple of years have been holistic, all areas of my life are affected by all of the other areas. AND YET I somehow forget that my faith is the cornerstone of my life. I teach about it, I speak about it, I write about it, and yet somehow I don’t always live it. The eating and exercising are both things that I know how to tackle and how to change, but my spiritual well-being is going to be more of a journey, and possibly the one that I need to focus on the most. This morning at church we looked at the different people in the advent/nativity story and were challenged about which of the “double-dog-dare’s” challenged us the most. For me…. It was Mary. I am in a position where my faith can easily be the centre of all that I do, and yet I don’t always make it so. I need to be like Mary and I need to see the opportunities I’ve been given and I need to take that double-dog-dare and say YES! I’m excited to see where it leads.

So 2017 has been interesting, ending with a month of lying on the sofa feeling very sorry for myself, and my brain not being very happy at all… but I am ready for 2018 and all that it will bring. I am also looking forward to sharing that journey with you all!

Please feel free to challenge me on any of the my goals!

The long and winding road that leads… 

  
I have been completely overwhelmed by the response I have had to my blog generally, the kind comments I have had from people, but also the really thoughtful advice people have given me – showing that they really have been reading it. Considering it was a bit of a summer whim when I started, I’m loving writing it and I’m loving the learning process that goes with it! 

This was no more evident than with my last post Warning Warning Warning. The responses I got from people, praying for me, encouraging me, and possibly most importantly challenging me were, well, fantastic!

It’s the challenges that have led me to this post. In the previous post I alluded to the vague recognition that the ‘old Helen’ wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this is what I’ve been challenged by the most. One friend sent me what was possibly the longest text I have ever received, and it spoke straight to me. 

There is no’old’ Helen, she is just slightly different to the current one, she was essential for who I am today and where I am today. She made it through 34 years, with some pretty tough going at times, and lots of hurdles jumped, as well as loads of fantastic experiences! 

I guess when it comes to looking back we have a tendency to go one of two ways – we can look back regretting who we were, and what we did; or we can look back at how wonderful things were and how we wish it was the same – especially when it comes to children’s TV which definitely was better in the 80s!!!!! Very rarely do we acknowledge where we’ve come from and how that has impacted where we are. Looking back over my blogs I have been doing a similar thing, for which I apologise. I’ve had a fantastic life, with amazing opportunities, for which I am incredibly grateful. 

On Thursday I spent lunch time with the head, following my breaking down on him on Wednesday! As well as boosting my confidence (something he has to do quite frequently) making sure I know there is nothing at school to be anxious about, he also reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13:11 which says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” The reminder that we change, but at no point are we necessarily a wrong version of ourselves, we are just in a different place. 

The thing I love about September in school is a new start, new books, new stationary. As much as it is a new start, it is still essential that we learn from what we have done in previous years, both what has succeeded, and what could be improved! This is where we finally get to the point of this blog – going on a journey! 

  
I have become very aware this week that life is a journey, and all parts of it, all people within it, all mistakes, all bumps, all highs, all lows, are an essential part of it. There is no need to worry about what has happened, or worry about what will happen, and I know that is much easier to say than do, but acknowledge that it is all necessary.

  
For me, I also know my journey is not alone, I am surrounded by people who love, support and challenge me (I cannot stress how much I appreciate the challenging), I also know that I have God. I was reminded of this as I walked to work on Thursday, I was smiling for my entire journey, laughing at times. God most definitely does have a sense of humour.

My journey to work takes about 40-45 minutes, I always start off by listening to a podcast – pray as you go – this is just a daily reflection. On Thursday it started off with a taize chant Bless the Lord – the words of which include “bless the Lord my soul, and bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord my soul, who leads me into life”, the narrator or the podcast then said “as you approach this time of prayer – let go for a moment, let go of your own fears, concerns, reluctance. Let yourself be led by God, trusting God who loves you will lead you into life” hmmmmm I think that might have been a message I needed to hear. 

It goes on, to the story of Jesus going out on a boat with disgruntled fishermen who hadn’t caught anything, instructing them to put down their nets, and then having too many fish to be able to carry themselves. The narrator then asks a series of questions and makes a few statements

  • As Peter often spoke without thinking, when have you reacted too quickly and then regretted it?
  • Can you be more open to God thinking about the possibilities in life rather than the problems?
  • What do you want from God at this time in your life’s? What does God want from you?
  • When Peter got it wrong Jesus brought him out of it and told him not to be afraid.
  • In the same way Jesus drew Peter to see so many possibilities, he invites us not to be afraid.

This podcast was directly for me on that day, but then it continued as I turned on genius on my iPod. I listened to four songs, all of which I have listened to numerous times, but on Thursday I paid attention to the words.

  1.  My Lighthouse Rend Collective. The important lyrics here include in my wrestling and in my doubts. In my failures You won’t walk out. Your great love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea… In the silence, You won’t let go. In my questions, your truth will hold. Your great love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea…I won’t fear what tomorrow brings. With each morning I’ll rise and sing. My gods love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea.
  2.  You are my vision Rend Collective. The important lyrics for me here were… You are my wisdom, You are my true word. I ever with You and You with me Lord. You’re my great father and I’m your true son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one
  3. Never once Matt Redman. Important lyrics… Standing on this mountaintop looking just how far we’ve come, knowing that for every step, you were with us. Kneeling on this battleground. Seeing just how much you’ve done, knowing every victory, is your power in us. Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say. Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did You leave us on our own. You are faithful, God you are faithful.
  4. Relentless Hillsong. Important lyrics… The time is up for chasing shadows. You gave the world a light to follow. A hope that shines beyond tomorrow. Your love goes on. You carry us when the world gives way. You cover us with your endless grace. Your love is relentless. Tearing through the veil of darkness. Breaking every chain, you set us free. Fighting for the furthest heart You gave your own life for all to see.

By the time I’d got to work I’d got the message: I’m on a journey, and always have been, I’m not on my own, I have no need to worry, because God loves me for who I am, what I’ve done, and will always love me. It is not going to be easy but it is going to be an adventure. This last year God has shown me possibilities and given me opportunities I never would have dreamt possible for ‘me’ and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead! And I hope you don’t mind me continuing to share the journey with you!

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

  
Yesterday I had a bit of a scary wake up call – quite literally! Unfortunately I don’t just mean being woken up by my alarm! At 12:30 in the morning I woke up with a pain all round my chest and tight shoulders, I couldn’t get comfortable, felt like I was going to be sick, definitely wasn’t able to go to sleep. After about 30 minutes of the pain being constant, and sometimes get tighter, the husband phoned 111 which eventually led to a paramedic being at my bedside! Long story short, after heart monitors etc… It turns out I’d had an anxiety attack! I felt like a complete and utter fool! The paramedic told me I wasn’t a fool, and explained that my breathing had got out of kilter for some reason, and it was that that had caused the muscles to hurt, which then caused me to get more anxious – the lovely vicious circle effect! The lovely paramedic managed to ask me lots of questions to distract me from my breathing which meant that I calmed down and the pain went! I took paracetamol and went back to sleep!

I then, obviously, went into school! I wasn’t going to be teaching all day as it was only year 7 in so I could hide in my office? This was not the wisest decision I’ve ever made, and I did eventually get sent home. What I found at school was that I wasn’t able to hide, I was exhausted due to not having slept, which meant I wasn’t able to concentrate on my work, which meant I was then getting anxious about not being ready for school, which meant I was getting breathless, and meant I got myself in a right old royal state – don’t you just love a vicious circle!

Once I’d asked permission to leave, and broken down in tears on the head (not too embarrassing) I actually didn’t go home as didn’t think I was best with my own thoughts if anxiety was my issue! So I went to a friends house – she happens to be a counsellor! After about three hours, lots of tears, and a few breathless moments, I had a much better idea of what I was anxious about – and what I find is that it is a lot easier to deal with something when you actually know what it is!

By the end of the day I’d also worked out that my body was warning me that I was getting anxious.  

 
On Tuesday evening I had been out, and my eye had been really hurting – this was where I had the bruise following the seizure. My eye hurt quite a lot yesterday, but it was intermittent – quite often before I stated to get breathless or upset. I worked out it wasn’t my eye at all but was a headache – my body was warning me but putting the pain where I had an injury anyway – cunning! So now at least I know that when my eye is hurting I need to take a step back, and breathe! Similarly when I was talking about things with the husband later my ribs were hurting, so I had to stop and breathe! 

One thing that I was getting upset about yesterday was that I felt I was ‘turning back into the old Helen’ who was highly emotional, quite often irrationally. I didn’t want to go back there! But I guess what I have to remember is that there was nothing wrong with the old Helen, but the new model is better! I’m also not invincible! Which I think is what I’ve started to think about myself – I just needed to be brought back down to earth – I just wish it wasn’t with such a humongous bump!

Last night I messaged a core group of friends to ask them to pray for me, as I hated this feeling. This morning I feel so much better, partly because I know I’m not doing this on my own, but I feel much stronger sense of peace. One of my friends told me that after she dead my message she opened her bible app to psalm 46 and that she felt it was for me, which it was and I will let you find it and read it if you choose to, but especially verse 5  

 
I have no need to be anxious, God made me as I am, God is going to protect me, it isn’t going to be easy but I am not alone! Every time my husband preaches I normally point out to him that he should listen to his own message! I think I now need to do the same. On Sunday I spoke at church about the fact that Jesus takes us by the hand, he doesn’t give us directions, he actually takes us by the hand and walks with us. Which reminded me of my granny’s favourite poem – footprints. It is through the difficult times when there is only one set of footprints because God is carrying us. Maybe I need to listen to my own talk!