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

 

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.

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

You’re worth it.

il_570xN.436604577_50qpDo you like yourself? Do you celebrate who you are? Do others appreciate you?

 “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

Very few of us live in isolation and most of us juggle the numerous roles life has assigned us. Parent, colleague, spouse, family member – all come with complicated tasks and expectations from others. Each role demands commitment and loyalty.

But you should never give so much of yourself that you have nothing left for you. Likewise your self-worth should not be defined completely by others. It is so important to be able to identify yourself too. Because it is who you think you are, not who everyone else thinks you are, that will ultimately result in who you will become.

“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.

Anyone who has experienced verbal abuse will know that the scars  can run deep. Whether the person intended to harm you or not, it is possible to grasp the abuse as a truth and use it to wound yourself time and time again. Too often the deceptions of the past are still allowed to shape who you are today and will continue to mould your future. But only if you let them. You do have a choice to reject the lies.

It amazes me that after all my years of recovery and despite my strength of faith, that I can be caught off guard. Some extremely hurtful comments were made to me last week at a point when I was feeling less than strong. Even though I could rationalise that person’s tirade as transference of their own inadequacies, there was a part of me that took it on board.

And as I did I hurtled back to that place of fear, loneliness and low self-esteem. The intense doubts surfaced and the feelings of self-hatred emerged to remind me of how worthless I was.  The intensity of the darkness was overwhelming.

But instead of wallowing in the gloom and succumbing to the negativity as I would have done previously, I was able to stand firm and fight my way back into the light. The light that shines from accepting that I am perfectly imperfect and knowing with confidence, who I am.

It can be a psychological battle sometimes, but when those demons raise their ugly heads at those times of vulnerability, you need to affirm everything that is good about you and your life.   Do that and you will find that you will start to free your authentic self and begin to live the life as the person you were meant to be.

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

As a child the emotional abuse I experienced laid the foundation of my depression and alcoholism in adulthood. Healing could only take place once I took the inner child by the hand and reassured her that I could reject what had gone before and claim the truth.

It was through faith that I found the truth. It was through faith that I could heal. And through healing I could love myself. After years I thinking I was worthless, I realised I had value. After years of thinking that nothing mattered because I didn’t, I found that life did matter and I did too.

What about you? Isn’t it time to be bold about yourself. I’m not talking about being boastful or arrogant. I’m talking about appreciating and nurturing yourself. About believing in your talents and abilities. About celebrating everything that makes you unique.

Children have an ability to take things at literally and internalise what is spoken over them. It is so important that when it comes to my own daughters that their personalities are cherished, their achievements are praised and that they know that they are loved unconditionally.

So it made my heart glad to hear my youngest daughter talking to her friend as they played the other day. Her friend spoke of how she wished she could be a princess because she could wear a special dress and this would make her special. My daughter told her friend that  she didn’t need to a special dress because feeling special came from the inside not from the outside. I don’t know if her friend understood what my daughter was saying but I know it made me smile. What we have on the inside of us is infinitely more important than the outside.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~Lao Tzu

Are you mourning the person you could have been if only……?  It may be too late to recapture the past. It may be too late to pursue a particular dream. But it is never too late to be the person you were meant to be.

il_570xN.436607721_sygnAccept you can’t change what has gone before. Let it go. Resolve to make new goals and new dreams. Accept you can’t change what others have said. Let it go. Resolve to speak new declarations and embrace everything that is good about you.

What ever is stopping you from loving yourself, caring for yourself, being yourself, let it go. Life is too short to hold onto those things or those people who are robbing you of your worth.

Believe me. Believe in yourself.                You’re worth it.

Top image Believe in Yourself  and bottom image Let it Go used with the kind permission of the fantastic Stephanie Ryan at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/stephanieryanart  All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Stephanie Ryan.

Treasures of your heart.

1254860_heart_flowersWhat are the treasures of your heart? Where can they be found?

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Wealth, possessions, success are all things that we can desire but they don’t guarantee peace of mind or happiness. Of course they help to make our daily existence enjoyable and can provide purpose and incentive, but it’s possible to be affluent and acclaimed yet still not be satisfied with life. I believe that’s because happiness has very little to do with what we have on the outside and everything to do with who we are on the inside.

My childhood experiences of abandonment and abuse had been the cause of long-term depression and alcoholism. I spent years believing that a successful career, being financially secure and having expensive possessions could fill the void in my life. But nothing was ever going to replace the love I should have had as a child.

When I hit rock-bottom and lost everything I felt like my life had ended and should be ended. My heart was like stone and there were no treasures to be found  in my existence.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu

As I have journeyed in recovery, I have learnt to replace the ‘hurt healers’ of alcohol and depression with the ‘hurt healers’ of life – simplicity, patience, compassion, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, hope. These riches I have found through a faith that teaches love. A love that provides an abundance of comfort, healing and power.

I used the experiences of my past as the foundation for my future. Through adversity and hard times I can now appreciate the prosperity and good times. Through abandonment and loss I can cherish and nurture my family and friends. And it is by coming through such depths of darkness yesterday that the light shines so brightly today.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy or is going through a time of adversity knows that when difficulties arise priorities change. The things you may have held in high esteem before, matter less. The day-to-day issues you have stressed over, become insignificant. Life takes on a new meaning.

Emotional healing demands that you turn away from what you don’t have to focus on what you do have. Losing a loved one means letting go of what you had in the physical, but holding tight to the memories that will last you a lifetime. Suffering with an illness means accepting the disease and looking after the rest of your health. Difficulties in a relationship means focusing on the good aspects whilst managing the bad.

Whatever you are dealing with, it can be tough. Yet you will be able to manage your situation so much easier if you have a strong heart. And your heart will be as strong as the treasures it holds within.

1256162_heartsIf your heart is weak, you will lack the strength you need to rebuild your mind, body and soul. If your heart is empty, you will lack the passion you need to pursue your dreams. If your heart is broken you will find it difficult to love and be loved. But a strong, complete and treasure filled heart will help you find peace, hope and happiness.

So how is your heart today?

Time to say goodbye.

goodbyeoneLooking to the start of a new year can be exciting. It can be the time to plan ahead, and dream of good things to come.

But to make way for new beginnings, it’s important to let go of anything that is going to hinder or harm you. Nobody has an infinite amount of physical time, or emotional energy. So it makes sense to use what we have on relationships that will benefit not drain. That are reciprocal, not a burden.

We all have relationships in our lives that come to a natural end. For whatever reason our contact with that person has run its course. We move on without a sense of loss or pain.

But there are other relationships that we cling to. Or we continue to involve ourselves in, with the hope that there will be a shift in commitment, interest or behaviour. And it’s those interactions that we need to reflect on. Perhaps it’s time to say ‘goodbye’?

Life is too precious to waste on others who are ultimately using or abusing.

I wish I had learnt this sooner. I wasted so much of my life on my mother. Years of thinking, talking, worrying, crying, soul-searching.  And all for nothing.

When my mum abandoned me as a young child, it wasn’t until much later that the impact of her actions came into force. I spent years wondering about her, blaming myself, searching for some answers. And as an adult when I discovered she had told everyone that I had been killed in a car crash, I was in agony. But my emotions were misplaced. I was grieving for the loss of my mother, but instead I should have been grieving for myself.

Instead I sought refuge in alcohol and my life spiralled slowly into the depths of despair. I had to hit rock bottom before I was ready to let go of my mother. Letting go was a gradual process of dealing and disposing of the rubbish that filled my mind. It was ‘Goodbye’ to self-hatred, worthlessness, guilt and shame. And a ‘Farewell’ to the oppressors of addiction, depression, loneliness and fear.

With time, prayer and courage I was able to overcome the negative connections of the past. In doing so I became emotionally available. I opened up my heart, mind and soul to those who could respond out of a true sense of friendship and love. Just as importantly, I learnt how to end relationships. What freedom!

It’s crucial to recognise those relationships that are harmful or futile. But if you decide that now is the time to end your involvement, be prepared.  Don’t underestimate how difficult, how painful or how long it can take to let go of a relationship. The more you have invested the harder it will be to break free.

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

Lao Tzu

But keep strong and it will be worth it. Visualise how you want to live your life. Surround yourself with good people. Kind people. Say ‘hello’ to those who inspire you and fill your life with light, joy and passion.accept

Accept those that accept you.

Embrace those that embrace you.

Love those that love you.

And as for the rest – time to say ‘goodbye’.

The Gift of True Love.

It was the final straw. After a difficult few months, another little set-back had presented itself. It wasn’t just one of those days. It had been one of those weeks. As I sat down to gather my thoughts I noticed my two daughters standing in the doorway. Reassuring them that I just needed a bit of time to myself and that everything was okay, they ran off upstairs.

A little while later they came to find me. Their faces lit up with excitement as they eagerly presented me with beautifully decorated hand-made paper cone. Inside was a collection of affirmations written by each daughter in bright coloured pen.

‘You’re understanding’ ‘You’re caring’ ‘Fantastic friend’ ‘Lovely personality’ ‘You’re the best mum ever!’ The loves notes went on and on.

As I read through each and every ‘love note’, nothing else seemed to matter. I was experiencing true love from my daughters, at a time when I needed it most.

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

In the past I had searched for love in all the wrong places. I had believed that I couldn’t find love because I was unlovable. But the truth was that I couldn’t love anyone because I needed to learn to love myself first.

As I started on my journey of emotional healing I first found love through faith. It was a gift that was not easy to receive. Years of rejection had made me wary. Allowing any sort of love in my life was a huge risk for me. On the one hand there were endless negative possibilities that could damage me further. But on the other, there was the potential for my broken heart to be healed.

I decided to give a love a chance. I wasn’t looking for the physical, romantic love that can easily fizzle out. Instead I looked for trust, respect, acceptance and commitment. It meant learning to love myself at this level first. But once I did, I was able to open up my soul to those who could offer the same.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~ Lao Tzu

Life will never be free from challenges and difficulties. But the love I receive from faith, family and friends give me all the strength I need.

Everyone needs love in their life.
Everyone needs the gift of true love.

http://madebynicole.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/daughter-is-gift-of-love.html – Top image. Thank you.
Bottom image thanks to Lisa Ferrante http://www.etsy.com/listing/104934519/love-is-the-best-place-ive-ever-been