Back on Track

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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!

Four F’s sake!!!!!!!! (Fun, Fellowship, Family, Friends)

  
The one thing I miss when on holiday is weekends! It’s not that weekends don’t exist on holiday, it’s just that you lose track of the days, they all roll into one and then the next thing you know the holidays are over! Don’t panic I am not complaining about my holidays – I appreciate I get long holidays as a teacher etc etc etc

HOWEVER I have really enjoyed this weekend. Last week was slightly manic at work, the husband was away with his work, and I went slightly overboard on making sure I didn’t get lonesome by going out every night! So by Friday evening when he returned home we were both so exhausted that we sat on the sofa falling asleep and barely able to talk to each other! But then Saturday came, and the weekend started! 

I know I’ve spoken about fun, friendship, fellowship and family before but it really is someone that is on my heart at the moment! And it is something that I have really cherished this weekend, as I have experienced all of it!

I’ve spent loads of time with the husband, catching up with each other and catching up with TV; it was my nephews 7th birthday so we had family time; I thought I’d have a quick chat with my mum – 53 minutes later I got off the phone; I watched Kung fu panda; went to church and spent time with friends over lunch! 

The perfect weekend which has left me energised and ready for the week ahead – which I know faces challenges and changes – more on that to come! But by spending time having fun, in fellowship with friends and family it encourages you and gives you the strength to know that support is there even if you’re unsure what lies ahead!

This weekend was a bit of an anniversary (more on that to come as well) and a chance to reflect on the year that has passed. On Friday my pray as you go podcast asked me to think about relationships which nourish, strengthen and challenge me – and to thank God for them. I am lucky that I have those relationships and I do thank God for them. 

I am realising more and more the importance of having those relationships where you can be yourself, have fun, rest, relax and re cooperate – ready for what is to come! 

I feel I should end with a quote from Kung Fu Panda “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift that’s why it’s called the present”

It’s an exciting and scary week ahead, I look forward to sharing it with you, but for now I’m going to enjoy the present, by going to bed! Goodnight everyone

Because we want to!

  
As my body decided to wake up ridiculously early I’ve been looking through my news feed on Facebook and there seems to be a lot of talk about dieting and getting healthy. The nature of the comments made me think about motivation.

What is the motivation behind the necessity to lose weight? Is it because of health reasons? Is it because of an idea of what size they should be? Is it because of pressure from society, family, or friends? Is it to be able to fit back in to clothes they used to wear? Is it because they want to? In my experience the only successful motivation is wanting to!

As a teacher I see the effect motivation has on a pupil, and I do mean motivation rather than bribery. Bribery works, but not to the same extent as wanting to do something. If a pupil wants to do a subject, and enjoys a subject, they are more likely to try harder and succeed in that subject. 

As I’ve said before, I have tried to get healthy and lose weight before but it has never succeeded, because I never really wanted to! I was happy as a person, I liked what I was doing. I knew that I needed to lose weight, I knew I needed to exercise, there were even times when the Drs told me that they wouldn’t continue treatment/investigations unless I lost a significant amount of weight. None of this was enough. It wasn’t until it was what I wanted to do that suddenly it all clicked.

A pupil once told me “I wish I wanted to come to school”! This 13 year old recognised that if he wanted to come to school he would probably try harder and achieve more.

I have to admit that this is confusing me, because I often teach about the difference between wanting and needing. Eg I WANT chocolate, I NEED food! But I think it is all about mindset it’s not enough to know that you need to do something, you have to want it.

This brings me on to goals. Again at the beginning of the year we look at goals, what do they want to achieve by the end of the year? How are they going to achieve it? A question people keep asking me, when will you stop, what is your goal? Answer… I don’t actually have a goal. I’m just going to keep going, until I’m at a weight/size that I want to then sustain – it really is more about a lifestyle for me. Similarly with running, people have said to me that they have to sign up for races to give them the motivation, that’s fine for them, but I’m actually happy just running. I’m not doing it to achieve anything, I probably will do some races at some point, but at the moment I’m just happy going out and running!

Motivation is important, and you may be a goal driven person, but the success is going to come easier if it is something you want to do. I’ve been given a few opportunities recently, some of which I’ve turned down, others I’ve accepted or even offered to do. The ones I’ve chosen are the ones I want to do, and I know that I will do a better job because I’m excited about them. My excitement has come across, and has been spotted by others, and encouraged them as well.

We can’t always do things we want to do, I know that, but even with the things we have to do we can work out why we want to do them as well! By changing our attitude to things, it then has a knock on effect in all areas of our lives, but also on those around us as well.

I’ve noticed a difference in my classroom this year, I want to be there want to enjoy the day, I want the pupils to learn and enjoy, so far there have been a lot of laughs and we’ve all been enjoying it not enduring it!

  

Fan ‘flippin’ tastic

 

On 28th August 2004 I got married, and there was only really one choice of song to walk back down the aisle to – Zipadeedodah – obviously! It expressed everything about the day, and it was Disney!

The phrase I’ve heard myself saying a lot over the last week is FANTASTIC – quite frequently with the word Flippin included as well! This has been used to describe classes, opportunities, the year ahead and even meetings! After the anxiety attack last week I couldn’t have imagined saying this, but it has been a really positive start to the year. I feel in control… Well more in control than usual… And I’m excited about what is to come!

Every year I start afresh, but this year seems different. This is partly down to relationships with colleagues, a recognition of my ability, a renewed love of the job, but mostly the pupils! The joy they have shown in lessons, the excitement for learning, the comments they’ve made including ‘I’m so pleased you’re teaching me’ and a year 11 girl telling me I look ‘flippin fantastic’! I’ve overwhelmed myself at what I’ve accomplished for me, and I really want that to be able to spread into all aspects of my life, especially at work! 

It’s such a blessing and privilege to work with young people, in some of the most formative years of their lives. This comes with a lot of pressure though, which I’ve been very aware of hearing parents say how I’ve impacted their children! I want to make the most of that opportunity, and this year I really am more aware of that!

When I typed in fantastic to the image search, the flower above came up. It’s a stunning flower but it’s not fully developed yet. I’m developing as a person, I’m growing and changing; and people are noticing. It’s definitely not just a size thing – apparently I’m glowing and have a renewed sense of energy! I’m also still perfecting the awkward dance with the compliments!

I’m no biologist but once the flower grows it will then pollinate, to create more beautiful flowers. I hope not to sound big headed, but I know a few people have started to make changes in their lives after seeing/hearing the difference in me.

I’ve always said I’ve made the changes for me, but I love the impact it has had on my relationships. I don’t teach for me, it honestly is about the pupils but… If the changes I’ve made for me can have an effect on my work for them it’s a win win situation! 

Apologies for the analogy but… If the growth in me can pollinate to a change in them, to then change others -WOW! 

It really is a fanflippintastic time, so exciting! It’s going to be hard work, but I’m up for it!

Zipadeedodah zipadeeay, my oh my what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine heading my way. Zipadeedodah zipadeeay! Mr bluebird on my shoulder, it’s true, it’s natural… EVERYTHING IS SATISFACTUAL!

I get knocked down but I get up again!

  
Lots of people have asked me what the turning point was for me and I think I finally have an answer.

As part of my job I organise the collective worship for the school, including taking assemblies. This is one of my favourite parts of the job, and I never quite know what I’m going to do next! I was starting to think about the one I’ve got to do in a couple of weeks, when I suddenly remembered one that I did last year, I can’t remember the theme but I was introduced by the head at which point Tubthumping by Chumbawumba  started playing (this part was planned) what I didn’t realise I was going to do was walk on stage doing the ‘dance’!!!!!!! I then spent the rest of the day having pupils bending down down, waving their arms in my face and singing at me!!!!!!!

I’ve got no idea, yet, what I’m going to do in two weeks time, but I’m sure there will be some madness, but that song has been going round in my head since I started thinking about it! 

“I get knocked down but I get up again you’re never gonna keep me down”

I’ve been knocked down many times in my life, who hasn’t, but I’ve never been one to stay down. However I would say that the ‘recovery rate’ has definitely got quicker!

It was actually a knock that started off this whole process of life changing events, which I’ve only just realised. It was the first day of the Christmas Holidays, and I managed to break my big toe! I won’t go into details, but suffice to say it was the day after the last night of term!

So for the entirety of the Christmas holidays, and the first few weeks of term I was on crutches! As much as I claimed that I loved my husband waiting on me hand and foot, him having to cook the Christmas dinner, getting lifts everywhere, just sitting on the sofa watching the entire box set of Lewis…. I actually hated it, I hated the restriction it had put on my life, the reliance it had caused me to have on others, and not being able to just get up and do what I wanted.

But as I was sitting there one day lying on the sofa with my leg up, after a day at work, I had a bit of a revelation…. This may have been caused by a broken toe, but actually how much different was my life? The answer… Not very different at all! If I didn’t have a broken toe would I have been rushing round tidying, working, meeting up with people, walking – NO!

Revelation – I needed to make sure that once the toe was healed my life changed. So I started with the calorie counting, then once able to I started walking home from work, then the very slow running started, then walking to work and now… I’m over 4 stone lighter, 3 sizes smaller, I’m regularly running, going to the gym, and swimming. 

When I went for the check up on my toe the Dr told me I could put weight on it now but I probably shouldn’t be running for a while – I openly laughed in his face and said I don’t think there’s any worry of that happening! What did I know? Last night I ran 5k for the second time and I loved it!

I might get knocked down but I get back up again, and at the moment there definitely doesn’t seem to be anything that keeps me down – not even a box set!

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!