Amazing grace

the special one amanda cass

The special one
Amanda Cass

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” Lao Tzu

If you are struggling with feeling ‘not being good enough’, or holding on to shame that is preventing you from accepting who you are, you are not alone. Society idolises celebrity status, bombards us with images of what we should look like, and manipulates what we should have and aspire to be. And there is an expectation to be perfect in everything and in every way.

Yet perfectionism is a myth. It’s a powerful myth that damages lives. Because when you fail to live up to those expectations, it can have devastating effects on your self-esteem. It’s natural to feel disappointed if you make a mistake or fail to do something, but if that feeling turns to shame then you could be heading down a spiral of self-destruct.

If the shame of ‘not being good enough’ has left you battling with low moods or depression, or your lack of self-worth has led to self-medicating with food, drink, drugs or prescribed medications, then you need to start challenging that myth of perfection.

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” ~ Brené Brown

My own long-term issues with depression stemmed from unresolved childhood trauma which led to a dependency on alcohol. From early childhood the experience of being rejected by my mother and abused by my father had a devastating effect on how I valued myself.

As I progressed through adulthood those feelings of ‘not being good enough’ intensified. Outwardly I wore the mask of the ‘independent, capable, confident woman’ but underneath I was lonely, confused and broken. But most of all I was ashamed of who I was.

At the lowest point of my life I was a chronically depressed alcoholic who had lost everything. By society’s standards I was a complete failure. I had nothing so I was nothing.  Except that was not strictly true, I did have something.  I was breathing and I had a speck of faith.

“T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.” ~ Amazing Grace by John Newton

I would love to say that I came to faith and an appreciation of grace through an instantaneous moment of spiritual enlightenment, but I didn’t. I came to believe through doubt and fear, and if I am totally honest because I had nowhere else to turn. Yet a speck of faith was all that was necessary to receive the gift of grace.

This is what is so wonderful about faith. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, as long as you believe and then receive. I know that receiving can be just as hard as believing if your sense of self-esteem is low, or if you feel that you have messed up too much to be forgiven. Anyone who has experienced heartbreak, loss, abuse, addiction, depression will be all too aware of how difficult it can be to start seeing themselves in a positive light.

Yet you are precious. You have value. You can be forgiven. And you owe it to yourself to receive the gift of grace and start to live your life as the person you know deep down, you can be.

“Courage is grace under pressure.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Maybe taking that step of faith seems impossible, but be reassured that it is through your weaknesses that you will find your strength. Dare to expose your vulnerability and you will reveal the intense beauty of your authenticity.

Grace is the antidote to shame. Grace through faith allowed me to accept my past and move on from it. It is grace that helped open my heart to forgive others and myself. It is grace that has enabled me to find my inner-strength and courage to heal.

It is so empowering to learn that you don’t have to be perfect and that you can embrace your imperfections as part of your uniqueness. And it is liberating to be able to accept yourself because of what you are, not despite of it. Grace is the key to both self-approval and emotional freedom.

“The gift of grace is a fresh start to each day, every day.” ~ The Hurt Healer

making a fresh start

Making a fresh start – Amanda Cass

Imagine being able to wake each morning knowing that your past didn’t have to define your future. Think of how good it would feel if you knew you could begin again. Consider how good you would feel if you believed that you were simply okay as you are, but with the desire to fulfill your potential. Those are the spiritual promises that I choose to embrace daily, and they are there for you too.

The gift of grace allows me to accept yesterday, live for today and dream for tomorrow. It’s the privilege of living with a peaceful mind, a vibrant heart and an illuminated soul.

Now that’s what I call ‘Amazing Grace’.

Both images thanks to the super talented Amanda Cass                                                      at http://www.redbubble.com/people/theartoflove                                                                     All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission

 

Colours of frost

frost appleI love this time of year. I love the brightly decorated shop displays and the anticipation of Christmas. I love the chance to meet up with friends and exchange gifts with those I love and care for. But as the year draws to an end it seems like each day gallops away in a blur of things to do and people to see.

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

It was my youngest daughter who reminded me of the need to slow down so that I could appreciate the little things that this season brings.  We were talking about what she liked most about winter. She didn’t mention presents or school plays or holidays. Instead she said she really liked the ‘colours of frost’. And to be honest, I had no clue what she meant!

For me frost is purely the covering on the ground we wake to in the mornings. It’s a sign of winter. It’s cold. It’s white. It certainly doesn’t inspire me. For my daughter though frost is a magical substance that gently sparkles on all that it touches. For her the frost isn’t only white. No, the frost takes on the colour of whatever it is attached to. The colours of frost change with the light and the heat of the day. And they are beautiful to her.

My daughter’s eyes light up when she talks about winter. Her imagination is amazing as she describes what she sees. Her frost covered world is one of marvellous patterns and exiting shades of white.

But the most important thing she shares is the importance of taking the time to find pleasure in the little things in life. I forget to do that, especially when the pressures of everyday life are building up around me. Yet it’s so important for me to take that time and allow myself to see things through the eyes of a child.

“Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do.” ~Jean de la Bruyere

My childhood was too full of fear to feel any happiness. It was too full of loneliness to share the visions. It was too dark to see the light. I grew up way too quickly and as an adult I mourned the loss of my infancy and youth. It’s one of the reasons I take such care in nurturing my own children. They need to experience the security, the love, the fun that all children deserve. And sometimes it is through my own daughters that I find my own inner-child and my own child-like creativity. They show me what it is like to be innocent. They show me how to enjoy the moment. They show me the colours of frost.

If you are struggling with the past or find it hard to manage the present because you are grieving the loss of your childhood, be reassured that it is never too late to reclaim your inner-child. Look to the lessons that the young can teach you – they forgive easily, they laugh lots, they find time to play. But most of all they embrace the new day. And so can you.

As a thank you to my daughter Charlotte I am finishing this post with a poem that she wrote for her final homework of the term. And I hope that like me, you will enjoy finding time to time to think about what and who you love.

                            What I love about Winter by Charlotte Hughes – age 10

I love

the dew drops as they cling to the spiders’ webs with all their might, the sunshine when it shines on the frosty grass and the pretty colours of white.

I love

the snowmen built by little children all around, until the melt and make pools of slush and ice on the ground.

I love

the snow as it falls on to the slippery ice covered earth, and how we join together on Christmas day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas. Thank you to each and every one of you who have supported and encouraged me this year, and I look forward to sharing much more from The Hurt Healer in 2014.

Joyful living.

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

Life can be tough. Yet whether you are struggling with issues from  the past, difficulties for today or fears about the future, you can still live joyfully.

When you struggle with adversity it can be tempting to look at others and envy them. Some people can appear to glide through life not only untroubled but totally blessed. In reality that is simply a perception. No one gets through life without trials and everyone has their own battles to fight.

I suffered many years of depression because I allowed the abandonment by my mother and abuse of my father to rob me of my self-worth. And with it my joy. How could I enjoy my life when so much had been stolen from me? How could I find peace when my mind was in such turmoil? How could I be happy when I was in such pain?

The answer was in the realisation that joyful living is a choice. One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in my emotional recovery was that I couldn’t change yesterday, I can’t control what happens today and I won’t be able to prevent what tomorrow may bring.

However I can make the choice to accept my past, find serenity in each day and embrace the future. All of which enable me to live with joy.

“If you are not living in Joy, you are out of integrity with your Soul.” ~ Michael Bernard Beckwith

Joyful living is empowering. It can overcome both doubt and fear, both of which used to dominate how I approached every area of my life; home, work and relationships. Having grown up in an environment where intimidation ruled, I lived in trepidation of saying or doing anything that would annoy my father. With so much that could go wrong that I gave up finding out what I liked or enjoyed in life because it was his needs that mattered, not mine.

Then there was the ‘fact’ that I was never good enough. As far as my father was concerned I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, clever enough, interesting enough. I had no value as in individual which of course was proved to me by my mother’s absence. In my mind she had left because I wasn’t lovable enough for her stay. Little wonder that I grew up finding it hard to find any pleasure in being me.

To live without joy is to live a life void of preference, purpose and passion. Your existence stifles your spirit and suppresses your soul. Yet it is in your spirit that you form your dreams and with the strength of your soul that you pursue them. It is in your spirit that you find love for others and in your soul that find love for yourself.

“There is no real and true Joy if that Joy is not imbued with love. Love cannot exist without Joy.” ~ Saraydarian

Joy goes hand in hand with gratitude and forgiveness. It also stems from acceptance and peace. Most of all though it’s birthed in love. Love isn’t simply an emotion, it requires action for it to be effective. So too, does joy.

Despite the difficulties you may be facing, you have the choice as to how you respond. Even though your circumstances may be in turmoil, you can be hopeful that no situation lasts forever. And when someone you depended on lets you down, you can feel proud that you have the strength to overcome. You can choose to be think positively and by doing so increase your light in the darkest of times.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thcih Nhat Hanh

When you live joyfully, it’s not just you that benefits. When you live with hope your radiance shines on everyone and everything around you. When you find time to share kindness, your generosity is passed on. When you love unconditionally, your love is returned.

There are no grand gestures required. A gentle touch can reassure in a moment of grief. A genuine smile can break down sorrow. A heart-felt hug can reconcile and restore.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  ~Psalm 37:4

For me, the joy in my life comes from knowing that I may not have what I want, but I do have what I need. Self-worth, sobriety and belonging also contribute towards my happiness. And each day is made complete by the love of family and the companionship of friends.

But my greatest joy comes from the assurance of a faith that heals and renews, forgives and blesses. And from the promise that He will give me the desires of my heart.

Now that  is joyful living.

Huge thanks to Lori Portka                 http://loriportka.com/ https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LoriPortka for permission to use her beautiful artwork.

 

Travelling light.

vintage-luggage-winona-steunenberg“The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.” ~ Lao Tzu

Take a look at the baggage you are carrying around with you today. If grief, resentment, pain or regrets are weighing you down then it’s time to unload.

When you’ve suffered disappointments or been left disillusioned by love-ones it can be hard to move on. The shock, denial, guilt, anger you can experience as a part of grieving are natural for a time, yet if you don’t progress through those stages it is all too easy to become trapped in the past.

But life is about living in the present and anticipating the future. You can’t do that if you are carrying the baggage of yesterday into today. And when difficulties arise they simply add to your luggage of psychological pain. It gets heavier and you become encumbered.

Instead of embracing each day afresh, you return to the same mental battleground. You replay the same scenarios or repeatedly hear the same negative thoughts, only to be hurt yet again. Your bags are stuffed with rejection, shame, bitterness, jealousy, mistrust, apathy, confusion, anger, fear. In fact they can be filled to the top but it doesn’t matter, you find another bag and carry that too.

“Live, so you do not have to look back and say: ‘God, how I have wasted my life.’ ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I spent years carrying the baggage of my childhood abandonment and abuse. I carried them for so long that they became part of me. Where ever I went those bags came with me, because the loss of my mother and abuse by my father were all I had to define me.

Instead of using those traumas as stepping-stones to a better tomorrow, I used them as a prison wall. Instead of taking each day as an opportunity to restore and renew, I added to my pain. Instead of living my life as the person I wanted to be, I lived as a victim of my past. Not surprising then that depression and alcoholism became my coping strategies to help me carry my emotional load. Until they too become too much to bear.

Like many who have gone through life clutching on to the baggage of trauma or tragedy, I realised the damage being caused physically and emotionally. However, not only did I not know how to let go, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.Because the prospect of change was so terrifying.

I had dragged those issues of rejection, abuse, depression, alcoholism with me for so long that I couldn’t imagine being without them. My fear of the future overwhelmed the familiarity of my existence. And what a terribly dark existence it was.

The truth was that all I possessed defined me as a victim. When I finally crumbled under the pressure of my past, I knew deep down though that I had to make the choice to give up or get up.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

The only way to move forward was to throw away all those things that held me as a prisoner of my past. I was so weary. I’d had enough of it all. Still it was only when I hit rock bottom that I turned to faith.

It wasn’t easy, but I gave myself permission to hand over everything that was harming me. Gradually over time I released all the pain and fought the demons that had troubled me for as long as I can remember. Faith taught me that I didn’t have to understand why I had endured such trials and that there was nothing I could do to change the past.

Acceptance of what had gone before helped me to begin living in the day and start looking to the future. Then forgiveness provided the key  that set me free to clear out all the baggage. With my lightened load I could  reclaim my life and fill it anew.

Now I have a faith-filled heart full of hope, love, joy, and trust. I continue my journey in sobriety with gratitude and serenity. No longer burdened by yesterday I choose to appreciate today whatever it brings and eagerly await tomorrow.

And that is what I would wish for you. Don’t let the events of the past keep you from enjoying the future that awaits you. Put down those bags crammed with destructive negativity. Leave them and don’t look back. You don’t need them those things any more. .

liberty-london-suitcasesTime to find some bright, new vibrant luggage and fill them with everything that can bless and fulfill your mind, body and soul. Those things that nourish and uplift are weightless.

Believe me, it’s time to start travelling light.

Miss you.

miss you“Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today.” ~ The Hurt Healer

As the seasons in our lives change, so do the people. Transient relationships that are meaningful in the moment can disappear into our past without detriment to our selves. As quickly as they transpire, so someone new takes their place. People come. People go.               Life moves on.

 

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”     ~ Aristotle.

Then there are those relationships that you wish could last forever. Everyone has someone who plays an intrinsic part in their life. There is a bond that you never want broken. There is a uniqueness that you never want to share. It’s special. It’s precious. And it’s all yours.

Unthinkable then that one day you may have to live without your kindred soul. Unimaginable that you may have to go through each day without the one that filled your heart. Yet it happens. It doesn’t really matter how, because the outcome is the same. You have lost a part of you. And you will never the same again.

But even though that person is no longer present doesn’t mean they are gone completely. You can’t be with them but you can sense them. You can’t touch them but you can feel them. You can’t talk to them but you can hear them. What a comfort to know that whilst the physical relationship has ended, your deep connection continues in the spiritual.

“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach

Sometimes it takes me by surprise when I start to miss someone whose existence has long passed from my life. The heartache has ceased but still the emergence of the memory of that special one can bring reminders of the agony of my loss.

        “Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today. Maybe it’s because I’m facing a season of change that I wish you could be here to share it with me. I miss you more than anyone can imagine. 

Strange though that missing you reminds me of just how far I have come. In those dark days, the lack of your presence would have fueled a cloud of despair and kept me in a depth of depression. No matter how hard I tried to numb the pain, your absence was an endless void.

           Now I can dwell on your memory and know that it’s because you went away that I found my strength. It’s because you left that I could find out who I really was. And I’m grateful not only for what you were able to do for me, but for what you were not. You have helped me become what I am, but that doesn’t stop me missing what we might have had if only you had been here.”

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:26

Thankfully I have a faith that not only comforts and heals, but gives meaning to my life. You need all of these things when you’re heartbroken. For when there is nothing you can do in the natural, it is the spiritual that must relied upon.

Making that connection didn’t come easily for me, because I blamed God for the loss in my life. It took time to learn how my anger and bitterness was misplaced and that God had been with me through the tears. My pain had been His pain too.

heaven and loveGently and tenderly faith restored my brokenness and replaced the emptiness with love. It healed me of the past, gave me meaning for each day, and the assurance of a hope-filled future. But most of all I have the promise that the one day, I will be reunited with the one I love and no longer will there be the need to say ‘ Miss you.’

Thank you to Kim Sisto-Robinson whose fabulous blog My Inner Chick, written in memory of her beloved sister Kay, inspired me to write this post.

Who do you think you are?

happiness“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Are you happy being ‘you’? Do you have confidence in yourself and your abilities? Or have you become your own worst enemy by believing what others have labelled you?  So that instead of living your life as you the person you were meant to be, you are simply a reflection of someone else. If so, it’s time to find out who you really are.

I’ve always had difficulties with my identity. Being abandoned by my mum as an infant left me growing up with extreme insecurities about being unloved and unwanted. It changed how I perceived myself and the thought that I was worthless was reinforced by growing up with an abusing father. My dad defined me in terms that reflected his misogynistic attitudes,which as a child I accepted as truth. There was no-one else to tell me otherwise.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s wasn’t simply the amount of derogatory traits that were attributed to me that caused the damage, it was the lack of anything positive or encouraging. The result was that for many years I really didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to say or do. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. Because I didn’t know who I was.

All that I knew was that I didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be someone else. The onset of depression in my younger years held me trapped in the view that I was never going to be pretty enough, thin enough, clever enough, confident enough. I was never going to be good enough for anything or anyone.  I lacked so much, yet everyone else seem to have what I desired.

So to numb the pain of the disappointment in being me and to help to manage the idea of being me for the rest of my life, I turned to alcohol. And for a while it worked. It gave me the confidence to be indifferent to my failings and took away my fears for the future.

Unfortunately, self-medicating led to addiction and over time the depression and alcoholism took over my life.Together with my lack of self-love I existed through others and allowed relationships to continue to define me. All to my detriment.

“True happiness is living life authentically.”                                                   ~ The Hurt Healer.

Perhaps you have also allowed past events to define you, or perhaps you used to feel you knew who you were but somehow your sense of self has disappeared over time? You can take on so many roles which meet the needs of others that your true identity is overwhelmed, leaving you mourning the loss of who you used to be,whilst your dreams and hopes have been abandoned.  Whatever your circumstances, maybe it is time to give the real you a chance to shine.

The turning point for me was a complete physical and mental breakdown. I could no longer go on existing as a product of my past. Enough of the fake smiles that covered the heartbreak. Enough of the false mask of confidence that hid the fear. Enough of the pretense. Enough of the uncertainty.  I had had enough of it all.

It was time to reclaim my life and find out who I really was. It was time to listen to my inner voice, nurture the child within and allow my authentic self to emerge. And in doing so I found out that I was everything I thought I wasn’t and a little bit more.

Refusing to enable my past to have power over my present, I was able to allow the real me to emerge. Initially the fears of who I had become revealed my rawness and vulnerability,, but over time my confidence and self-worth grew. No longer was I controlled by others.  No longer did I compare myself to others. After all the years of believing otherwise, I was okay being me.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

fearlessWith faith as my guide, I allowed my mind to explore, my heart to love and my soul to bloom. Faith taught me too that I am valuable and precious. And that even my failures have a purpose. My weaknesses have become my strengths and my imperfections have become my uniqueness.

Something I could never have conceived in those dark days was that I was ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ But to today I think am.

What about you? Who do you think you are?

Who cares?

catherine jacobs 2“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead

The world is so chaotic. Depression, suicide, and addictions are increasing world-wide at a rapid rate. It shows that people are hurting and feel alone with their pain. But why care?

Because even if you feel you can’t change the earth, you may be able to change somebody’s world.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

No matter how small your gesture, it can make a difference to someone. A smile costs nothing but it may just brighten someone’s day. A sympathetic ear can help someone feel that they are not alone with their problem. An offer of help may give someone an extra boost to achieve their dream.

It’s not important how you show you care, as long as you do. For when you do, you initiate a chain of kindness that is passed on to others and it is this collective caring that helps to change the world.

Sometimes though it isn’t the lack of care that is the concern, it is the ability to receive it that is difficult. If you’ve experienced rejection you can be left with a lack of trust that forms a barrier to accepting any level affection.

I went through many years convincing myself that I didn’t want anyone to care for me out of pure fear that I would attach to their love only to have it ripped away from me. And even believing that someone would want to care was improbable. How could anyone care about me when my own mother had physically abandoned me and mentally killed me off in her mind?

Yet I did need someone to care. I needed it desperately. Whilst I was too terrified to take the risk to reach out, it was impossible for anyone to reach in. The combination of depression and alcoholism constructed an emotional barricade that was impenetrable.

“The walls that you build as a safeguard are the same walls that will in turn isolate and imprison.” ~ The Hurt Healer

Unfortunately my mental fortress served only to trap me further in my own cycle of despair by restricting me to living each day based only on the my experiences of rejection and abuse. Worse, it prevented any chance of allowing healing or restoration.

There was only one way that I was going to ever be able to be helped and that was for the walls to come down. Of course this was an inevitability that I hadn’t the courage to face, and so it was my mental breakdown that resulted in the collapse of my barriers. As they came crushing down, my vulnerability was exposed and I waited for the end of my life to come.

But it didn’t. Because someone cared. Professionals stepped in and there were friends who stood by me. They cared for me when I was unable to care for myself. Over time I learnt how to renew my boundaries in a positive way. Life stopped being simply a battle against the bad, and became a home for the good.

“Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.” ~ Psalm 62:8

Most importantly I found a faith that cared unconditionally. I realised that God cared, and that He had done all along. When I was willing to receive the love that had been waiting for me, I was then able to heal.  And as I handed over my past, present and future into the security of His hands, so I found the refuge I had longed for. Today I am safely in His care. 

We all need someone to care for us. But that love needs to be rooted in truth. And it needs to be given freely. If someone is showing you that they care only to want something from you in return, then it isn’t genuine. Steer clear.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  ~ Dalai Lama

catherine jacobsIt bothers me that so many people are hurting and nobody seems to care. Yet I know that the best way to feel cared for is to care for others. Doing something kind for someone makes you feel good too.

So in answer to the question ‘Who cares?’                                                 I do. I care.

All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Catherine Jacobs.

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Time for change.

change 2“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu

Kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, trust, loyalty and honesty all make for a good relationship. But what if the person you extend these forms of love to doesn’t reciprocate? Not just on the odd occasion but consistently using or abusing your friendship? Then it’s time for change.

In the past I have been caught up in relationships that were simply no good for me. On reflection I can see that I was willing to put up with being let-down and mistreated because I didn’t believe I deserved any better.

Anyone who has been involved in an abusive relationship knows how difficult it is to think clearly in that situation. It starts with comments and actions that undermine you. If you have self-confidence then you are able to deal with these incidences appropriately. But if you’re feeling vulnerable or depressed as I often did then the doubt is set in your mind and so begins the downward cycle.

From my own experience I know how dangerous that can be. The longer I stayed the more I enabled the other person to carry on belittling me and making me believe that I was always at fault. Which in turn confirmed my uselessness as a human being. I gave my all but my all was never good enough.

Then when it reached the point that I literally couldn’t do or say anything right, instead of questioning how wrong it was to be living in a constant state of fear, I kept trying to change myself to fit in with the other person’s demands.

I ended up feeling like something that had crawled out of the ground and had no right to life. Except it wasn’t a life. It was an existence. It wasn’t a relationship, it was a one-way ticket to hell on earth.

“Even the worm will turn.” Proverb

You may feel like a little worm that is worn-out and weary but you can fight back. You are still alive and you as long as you have breath in your body you can change your life. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but you don’t have to live one more day as a victim if you don’t want to.  Get ready to tell yourself, “It’s time for change.”

I had to hit rock bottom before I could make that choice, but with the support of friends, the guidance of professionals and the grace of faith I was able to reclaim my life.

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

When my time for change came I knew it was never going to be simple or pain-free. It was time to accept my failures, time to let go of the past, time to forgive and be forgiven, time to live each day as a new beginning.

change1Time to live my life as the person I was meant to be.

What about you? Time for change?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi

I love you.

untrue love“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” George Sand

Love is a word that is seen and heard everywhere. It is used freely to describe emotions and feelings. It conjures up romantic notions and lusts. Yet there is so much more to love than just a sentiment which makes you feel good.

Of course it’s wonderful to make people feel wanted and needed through words that are encouraging or compassionate. But when you use the words ‘I love you’, it can take the relationship to a completely different level. Those three little words aren’t just a statement of affection or admiration, they can be the ultimate declaration of attachment and loyalty.

When you tell someone you love them you are investing your heart, mind and soul. ‘I love you’ should never be spoken lightly. In my own life I have found it very difficult at times to express my love or receive it. Because I never wanted to feel so desperate, lonely and unloved as I did when I realised my mother had abandoned me forever.

“The love you seek is seeking you at this moment.”                                                              ~ Deepak Chopra

My thinking was that if I didn’t allow anyone to love me and if in turn, I didn’t love anyone then I couldn’t be hurt again. But I did hurt. And the more I used alcohol to numb the pain, the more I distanced myself from ever being able to love not just others, but myself. And so too will you be distanced  further from what you truly desire if you try to avoid loving or being loved. A loveless life is merely an existence void of real joy or happiness.

So when I reached the point that existing was no longer an option for me, I started on my journey of recovery. If you have ever been on that journey you will know how vulnerable and raw it can be. Not to mention terrifying. But it is worth it. You are worth it.

Through faith I experienced a love that forgave everything I had been, accepted me for who I was, and helped me believe that I could live a life of value and worth. Most importantly it taught me that I needed to love myself because it was only through self-love that I could truly extend that love to others.

“Love one another.” ~ John 13:34

It wasn’t easy but I had to learn to look at myself and say ‘I love you’, before I could declare it to anyone else. Even now I have to admit that I am much more at ease at telling those I care for deeply that I love them than reassuring myself. But the reality is that you can’t give away what you don’t have, and that includes love.

illusionAs well as needing to be loved, we need to love others. For me this means not just speaking of love, but showing it. Gifts, tokens of generosity or sensual actions are all ways to demonstrate love, but just as important are respect, empathy, commitment and authenticity. ‘I love you’ can then have huge impact and meaning.

I am so grateful that today my life is filled with friends and family that I have genuine love for and who reciprocate that love time and time again.

My message to you is as always, ‘I love you.’

Untrue love’ and ‘Illusion‘ images thanks to the fabulous talent of Boryana Gold   http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BoryanaGold

 

Miracles.

denise“Everyday holds the possibility of a miracle.” ~ Elizabeth David. 

What’s your definition of a miracle? An unexpected and unexplained blessing? An extraordinary healing?  A life changing event?

Of course what constitutes a miracle for me, may be something that is quite usual for you and vice versa. And I have to admit that I have previously been pretty sceptical about miracles. Mainly because I associated them with unbelievable instantaneous incidences and also because I had never considered the possibility that anything so wonderful could ever happen to me.

                        “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

For anyone who suffers with low self-esteem or lack of self- worth as a result of trauma or abuse, the ability to anticipate positive results or expect good things is seriously impeded. I know that  years of rejection and abuse had a massive effect on my own perspective on life, causing chronic periods of depression and alcoholism. I never felt  good enough for anyone or anything. I didn’t dream of the future because there was no point. As for the chance of a miracle, no way.

Yet as I started on my journey to recovery I learnt that it was through my weaknesses that I could find my strength. Faith helped me to heal by accepting my past, not by trying to deny it. Everything that I had previously held as a truth about myself was confronted. With time and courage I grew to let go and let God help me discover the real truth.

And that was a person who was so much stronger than she ever thought she was. A woman who could reclaim her life to become the person she was meant to be. And if you’ve been in that dark place or are still struggling, be encouraged. You are stronger than you think.

“Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.” ~ Samuel Smiles

I know the amount of healing and hope I have received through my faith. It  has brought me to a place of freedom and happiness in a way that I could never have dreamt. For many that would be a miracle, me included.

let goBut over the past few months, I have experienced a new level of miracle in my life and as  I am very protective of my family it’s with a little hesitancy that I am revealing this.

Fifteen years ago I met my husband in England and we moved back to his native N.Ireland to the village he was born and raised in. I had recently found my faith in a pentecostal church whilst my husband had grown up a Catholic. Many of you will be aware that a mixed relationship like this is still very taboo in many places in N.Ireland, so I agreed to support my husband in his choice of faith and become part of the Catholic community with the proviso that I could still maintain my own form of worship at home.

When we decided to marry, the priest was reluctant and advised us he could not bless or conduct our marriage. So we went one day to a registry office and became legally married. No wedding day as such, but my husband and I agreed we could do that later on.

As time passed a wedding day didn’t really seem to matter because we were blessed with two gorgeous daughters and anyway the priest was still not going to change his mind and my husband was still a catholic, as were our children.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew19:26

A few months ago though, things began to change. Although I was quite content with where I was at in my life I started to feel distracted. I had an urge to move on to a new level. It’s hard to explain but I knew that something significant was going to occur but I didn’t know what. All I knew was that I had no control over what was going on.

All sorts of serendipitous incidences started to occur with a synchronicity that I could only explain through faith. I became aware that every day brought an unexpected blessing. And whilst I was totally grateful there was always that little doubting voice from the past reminding me that I didn’t really deserve all of this goodness.

So I decided to challenge that voice once and for all. So much of my life had been stolen, so much of my life had been ‘make do’, so much of my life had been willing to accept just enough to get by. Well, no more. I refused to listen to it for one more second.

Then came the miracles! Out of the blue my husband talked of not only a blessing but a wedding vow renewal and for the whole family go to England so that my friends could attend. And then he suggested we have a non-catholic service. Exciting ideas except that practically and financially it was impossible.

Except it wasn’t. Within a few hours we had found the perfect church, the perfect pastor ( a charismatic vicar who happened to originate from a few miles from where we live now), the ideal venue for a small reception, and beautiful accommodation. Amazing friends helped with the arrangements long distance. Wonderful friends locally offered us gifts and money to cover the costs.

Yet still more extraordinary events were going to take place. My own faith was being stirred up and I knew that I needed to return to the fellowship of my  church. But how could I attend without abandoning my husband and children? Take them with you, was the answer. And by a miracle, I did.

My children joined me and embraced the youth ministries. My husband stood by my side and after attending for a few weeks gave his heart to God. They have left their religion to find their faith and our lives have changed forever. It’s not just me moving to a new level, it’s my whole family.

P1060121And the reaction from our community? No insults or rejections. Just acceptance and kindness from every corner. Another miracle.

I walked down the aisle on the arm of my lovely faith-filled husband, in the presence of my cherished daughters and loving friends to have my marriage blessed and renewed. It was precious for so many reasons but all the more fulfilling because of how it happened.

I appreciate that many might not see these events as anything out of the ordinary, but the point is that miracles are everywhere and can happen every day. You just have to recognise them.

The greatest lesson I have learnt over the past few months though is to start expecting more. I need to stop limiting myself and allow God to do what he wants to do in my life, because it’s going to be infinitely more than I can ever have imagined.

Well that’s enough of me for the moment. I would love to hear of the miracles that have taken place in your life. And if you don’t think you have experienced any. Think again. There is no one else on this earth like you. You are a miracle.

Top image thanks to the fabulous Denise Wandt at Naturally by Denisehttp://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/NaturallybyDenise.                                           Bottom image thanks to the talented Sunni Chapman at Mimi and Boo http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/mimiandboo All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Sunni Chapman or Denise Wandt