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Category Archives: encouragement

The wiles and wonders of the emotional world

Emotion

Photo thanks to rexquisite

Ever felt like you are going crazy? Then run with me on this one. Tell me if you can relate. How have you viewed the period of your life afterwards? What helped get you through?

Emotions aren’t always fair. Sometimes, like this week, they don’t come remotely close to reflecting the reality of my life. And… despite my knowledge of this, there are times when the extremity of our situations seems to throw things rather off balance. Not even in the direction of our choosing.

Would I be emotional?

So, yes, you’ve guessed it… I am crying my eyes out right now!

Yet there is nothing I am actually sad about. And this is the funny part. Usually I am sad about something or other. (If I want to admit it and talk about it, that’s a whole ‘nother story… but having the sadness-thing is usually there!) Ok, there’s one or two things that have upset me, but not enough to take over my whole sleeping schedule and Saturday thoughts…

Being sad about something makes sense. Being sad about nothing makes no sense. Especially when there are many things to be happy about.

I can only put it down to purely an overflow of stress… Being pushed over the edge, and then pushed and pushed and pushed…

This last ten days have felt like a dream. A fabulously exciting dream… my dream, logically, but someone else’s dream sensationally.

Many good things to enjoy – unbelievable!

This week, I should be brimming with happiness, at any number of blessed changes, that I have enjoyed and excited me:

  • I am an aunt for the first time: welcome to the world, James William Macleod!
  • Both my dear sister, and the new baby are doing great! Daddy has just graduated. Just brimming with celebration and thankfulness.
  • One of my best friends is in town this week. I got to have dinner with her, and spend time with her and one of her best friends.
  • I still have a job, despite the company financial planning leading to my job duties changing.
  • I got some weighty compliments for my ability to communicate this week: one, from a respected colleague who repeated two days in a row, in front of different people, that I was an exceptional writer. (You all know that, right!) But I still love to hear it. And then I won not one, but TWO prizes at Toastmasters for my public speaking abilities. Me, public speaking, you gotta be kidding! And I just done it on the spot with almost no prep time or anything.
  • One of my good friends and work colleagues got an exciting promotion. I’m intrigued to see how that will go, and create new job opportunities not only for him, but also filtering throughout the organisation.
  • I reconnected with a colleague from Scotland – a more senior colleague, who I previously believed knew nothing about me or my work, yet was eager to re-establish our conversation, and raised the topic of a pet hobby horse I was known for having in Scotland. I’m curious.
  • I got to attend the PPA graduation ceremony, and even got to sit next to two very dear friends of mine from church.
  • I finally got round to stopping off to try a new coffee shop – they even have gluten free menu choices! I sat in a comfy leather chair and did some writing.

Out of body, out of mind?

All in all, this is a pretty incredible week. I mean, every single one of these things would ordinarily be enough to keep me going with warm fuzzy for days, weeks even. And the new baby, for much much longer!

Yet I still feel as if I’m in a dream…. both the ups and the downs of the week just don’t seem to be real life. That, or they are happening to someone else and I’m not even part of them, I’m an invisible spectator with no say in how or why or when anything happens.

No say in contributing anything positive to the conversation.

The goal of my actions

But I want to say good. I want to do good. I want to bless others. It is not enough to sit watch this funny person live their life. It is making me frustrated to be so far away, so disconnected.

So, what is the matter with me then? Where am I, with all this happiness surrounding me?

The stark reality

  1. Six weeks ago I knew I was burned out. Very burned out. I knew I had some significant duties on my plate, and I knew I had to find a way to face those duties with enough determination to see my way through them. So I took a long weekend. A fabulous weekend, no less wonderful because it wasn’t enough to obliterate burnout.
  2. In the intervening weeks, I have accomplished those remaining goals that were significant life requirements (financial; legal – immigration). This is a pretty major achievement.
  3. Then I have also accomplished other unforseen goals that landed on my plate, some of which I can talk about, others of which I cant…
  4. I have accomplished a very short term work project (2 months total), with all the normal craziness of a release, all intensified into that schedule.
  5. Four or five new friends have turned up in my life all at once, and I have invested time and energy to make them each feel welcome. I’m so blessed to have them in my life, and I want them to know that.
  6. I have worked the longest, most intense work schedule that I’ve ever done in my life. Including a last-minute loss of an entire Saturday, due to a manager request. As any working person will know, the loss of a Saturday is Immense, especially when it is unplanned.
  7. I had no opportunity to cook on Saturday, so I’ve been cobbling together meals all week. I’ve *almost* eaten properly, but not quite… No doubt the lack of proper bodily sustenance does not help good psychological balance. And I’ve not gone “above and beyond” to give myself that extra physical boost of cooking something special and different one day, or having extra snacks at work, etc, etc.
  8. I’ve kept up with my exercise schedule most days, but let myself off a couple of days when I was so physically drained I didn’t even know how I was going to make it through the day. The lack of exercise is felt by the lack of energy and warmth that I ordinarily get when I do exercise. While I don’t doubt it was wise to take a break, at the same time, it still has consequences.

And I’m not done yet. Even more unexpected items have come up in my life, not least of which is transitioning yet again to a new job role. Thankfully that’s not immediate (although some of the planning is pretty immediate).

Where next?

So now I’m figuring… if I was burned out BEFORE this last six weeks, what am I now? About to disolve the last remaining charcoal in a puddle of tears?!

Those special effects should be worth watching from my corner-of-invisibility!! So long as I have popcorn. And kleenez… don’t, my dear friends, let me go anywhere without kleenez!

My hope

Of one thing I am certain. Though I cannot see the pattern the Divine Weaver is weaving, He has reasons to link all these different-coloured threads together. He knows what He has been teaching me – oh, blessed truth! Not only the last six weeks, but for months altogether, He has been revealing more of Himself to me through a particular confusing Providence, and I can’t but revel in His goodness to me.

His Protection over me, in the days to come, will be surely manifest as in many times of old. To Him be the glory. The thanks for the safe arrival of James, and the care over my dearest special wee sister and her husband.

Can you hope in God today?

 
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Posted by on Saturday, June 16, 2012 in -not-ready-, encouragement, stewardship

 

New firsts

Do you rise to every challenge that comes your way? Do you go through every door that opens?

Are you prone to sacrifice old goals for new endeavours? Or sacrifice basics to go out your way to help someone else? How do you know when you are fully booked? I still haven’t figured this one out! 🙂

This week I got a challenge. I did not accept it, because it seemed crazy and unwise for me to attempt – not because it was really that difficult, but because I really am that busy right now.

The challenge:
Do one uniquely new or different activity every day. It should be fairly significant, not something trivial/silly like “first time getting up at 7:02am”.

My quandry
Throughout the week, I was thinking about this in the back of my mind, realising how I really didn’t have time for it, but in some ways I had actually met some of the goals. So now the week is over, I thought I’d do a retrospective.

Was it feasible? Was it going to happen anyway?

Assessment of results
I thought I didn’t do too bad, all things considered. Though I must say I didn’t exactly plan out all these happenings, I’m way too busy to plan for “bonus features” right now! I think this just illustrates that.

My results:

Monday:

  • First time in California
  • First time hiking to a fun spot to do devotions (with Janine in Sabino Canyon)
  • First time loosing a boarding pass for a plane

Tuesday:

  • First time to Peyton (small village outside of the Springs)
  • First time attended an event to support my friend M (Technology night at Peyton)
  • First time eating gluten free at Wendys (baked potato+chives+sour cream AND it was only just over a dollar!)
  • First time being asked if I’d be willing to speak to a school class! Uhhm… yeah, what would I say!?

Wednesday:

  • First time speaking on the phone to my new UK accountant
  • First time having snacks for prayer group that I prep-d 10days beforehand (crazy, I know! but hey, that’s the nature of my schedule/burn-out right now…)

Thursday:

  • First time writing a Junit performance test.
  • First time encrypting a pdf file with a password.
  • … First time this week I got a chance to breathe…!! That’s what it felt like 🙂

Friday:

  • First time doing a significant code refactor to a new API switched out by a colleague (normally we would work in different areas)
  • First time having sunburn peel (first time sunburn properly hurt for days and got crusty+peeled)
  • First time I saw baby David go for his bottle to drink without it being given to him first.

Saturday:

  • Being laaazy. No really, that is a first! 😉 Ahem (Mum, don’t see this!)
  • First proper phonecall to the UK that wasn’t Skype-to-Skype. (We chatted for well over an hour, and I was paying… thankfully not too bad, around $3)
  • First blog post with a totally random unconnected picture

Did I suceed? Are some of these too easy? I think they should all count 🙂 except for the obviously silly ones.

Psychology
Beyond the simple exercise, the psychology of doing the exercise had me in knots all week.

When is it helpful to be creative and have a different way of thinking about things? When do you need to buckle down and just power on through. When you’re buckled down, how do you wake yourself up again to come out blinking into the sunlight of the ever-changing world out there?

How do you properly assess needs of others, and sacrifice for them, when you are maxed-out on your current responsibilities. When should you say “No” to some responsibilities, when you have other opportunities you are more suited to fulfill by the position God has given you in the world? What about responsibilities that need done, but are a disproportional effort?

More questions than answers this time… 🙂 I would love to be growing in wisdom, yet all I see is bigger vulnerabilities.

And remember
In the midst of all, God is good. He comforts in distress, encourages in weakness, corrects when we go astray. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, especially in our most trying times.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, May 5, 2012 in encouragement

 

blessings of death


P1040605

My Opa and I

Western society is now more isolated from death than it has ever been.

We have great luxuries: infant mortality rates have plummeted; death during childbirth is almost unheard of and life expectancy has stretched enormously with modern medical advances. (Not quite pre-flood life spans, of course, but a significant majority reaching the commended seventy years of the Psalms.)

And these are luxuries. Death itself is ugly, nauseating and hardly to be revelled in. It is not without reason that Death is personified as “The Last Enemy” of the Christian.

Yet, despite all our modern progress, it is worth meditating on the place that death plays in our lives. It is not to be taken lightly, and even less so with the almost clinical isolation that we manage to concoct around it nowadays.

The blessing for acquaintances of the deceased

God is speaking, loud and clear. There is no ignoring, shirking or pretending around the reality of death. It is final, it is complete, and it is in full accordance with God’s will.

Few things are as certain as the fact that we will all die one day. It is a kindness from God to be reminded of this periodically. We can become complacent. We can lose perspective. We can forget God. He is good not to leave us in that self-centred place and remind us simply that He IS.

What a privileged to have the God of all mercy communicating with us. Warning, yes… but so tenderly-intentioned for all those He wants to bring home to Himself.

The blessing for loved ones of the deceased

It is heart-wrenchingly difficult to lose a loved one.

There is comfort when we know our loved one is with the Lord. We do not mourn as those without hope. It is a balm to know that their suffering in this world is over. That their joy is complete. That their sanctification has been perfected. We are told to covet the best gifts, and almost we could be jealous of the wonderful completion of the race that God has acted out in their lives.

(I cannot begin to sympathise with an alternative reality, of a loved one who does not know the Lord – I’m thankful in God’s mercy to me that I have not had to experience that agony. Rather than spew out some meaningless platitudes, I’m not even going to address this.)

Beyond their joy, for ourselves the reality of death is being brought home to us in a personal way. A way that cannot but prompt an exploration of deep soul-searching questions. Along with our friends, we are being brought to our senses in keeping a perspective on the transience of life. And we are challenged by the personal aspect to consider whether we have our house in order. “Will I be next?”, “Who will mourn for me?”

More than anything, we are being shown the disgusting wretchedness of sin. That sin should be the cause of this great evil disturbing our lives and happiness. That sin is against God. The same God currently sustaining and comforting us in our grief. I know of no more visible and tangible demonstration of the ugliness of sin than coming face-to-face with death.

The blessing for the deceased

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55

It is not easy to enter into Apostle’s ejaculatory comment: to understand and be willing for God’s glory in this, the lonliest of all trials. God gives grace for dying only to those about to die, so it is hardly surprising that such revelation may almost be terrifying to a young Christian. Awe-inspiring at least.

Yet we have hope. Death, though an enemy and a fierce one at that, is the last enemy. (John Donne captured this most elegantly in one of my favourite poems.) No more sorrow, no more sighing, No more tears. It is enough, it is the end.

(4)And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (5)And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (6)And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. Rev 21:4-6

May my dearest Opa R.I.P. ’til the resurrection.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in encouragement

 

Who are you?


Question mark

Photo thanks to Marco Bellucci http://bit.ly/xtJY0V

Recently a friend posed the question of what defines us, and I was reminded of one of my favourite descriptions. Please meditate and enjoy.

The Happy Man

The happy man was born in the city of Regeneration in the parish of Repentance unto life. He was educated in the school of Obedience. He has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment, and many times does jobs of Self-denial, wears the garment of Humility, and has another suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.

He often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountains of Heavenly-mindedness. He breakfasts every morning on Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same. He has meat to eat that the world knows not of, and his drink is the sincere milk of the Word of God. Thus happy he lives, and happy he dies.

Happy is he who has Gospel submission in his will, due order in his affections, sound peace in his conscience, real Divinity in his breast, the Redeemer’s yoke upon his neck, a vain world under his feet, and a crown of glory over his head.

Happy is the life of that man who believes firmly, prays fervently, walks patiently, works abundantly, lives holy, dies daily, watches his heart, guides his senses, redeems his time, loves Christ, and longs for glory. He is necessitated to take the world on his way to heaven, but walks through it as fast as he can, and all his business by the way is to make himself and others happy.

Take him all in all, in two words, he is a Man and a Christian.

From Lachlan Mackenzie, “The Happy Man”, Banner of Truth. (Thanks to this site for the text.)

Who am I, or whose am I? It is a priveledge to answer this question with joy.

 
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Posted by on Friday, April 13, 2012 in devotional, encouragement

 

Grandiose Goals

Goal Posts

Photo thanks to Katie D, Flickr

Are you with me as one of the estimated majority who avoids making New Years Resolutions? I have found the tradition rather trite, but after a particularly relaxing time off work, I’ve found myself rethinking it.

There are reasons not to:

  • January is already a depressing month for other reasons (like having the long holidays behind you). The last thing you want is to pile on the guilt-trips.
  • There’s a notorious self-fulfilling-prophecy that New Years Resolutions are made to be broken.

This isn’t to say I don’t care about putting effort into positive change. For example, this past year, I worked pretty hard to figure out the “gluten question”. Which brings me to another reason I’ve avoided resolutions:

Having just one resolution is a bit lame, isn’t it?

Consider switching to a gluten-free diet. I’d like to suggest this is a pretty big deal. Just this one goal has presented challenges daily. And (for health reasons) there was no possibility of just taking a day off.

Here are just some of the challenges:

  • never eating a meal without paying close attention to the source of all ingredients.
  • logistical difficulty in attending a social function.
  • Showing true gratefulness and kindness whenever offered items of food that need to be refused

I have now been 100% gluten-free for four months and three weeks.

And I did everything wrong, as far as goal-setting goes.

Like:

  • When struggling two months into the research phase, I just went all out cold turkey – everyone knows that’s a recipe for letting yourself down.
  • I didn’t set a time-limit on the process
  • I didn’t even know if I had a problem with gluten when I started
  • According to my nutritionist, I was doing some of the medical tests back-to-front… but having got myself syched-up to do this, I still pressed on. (And to her credit, she is supporting me.)
  • I didn’t plan for it in advance: I took advantage of opportunities presenting themselves to me in my life, just then and there, that allowed for my progress to happen. God provided this all for me.

What am I trying to say with all this?

Fitting into the box of expectations isn’t the only way to succeed. If you feel you are not fitting that box – January 1 has already come and gone – and you haven’t decided on a resolution yet, that doesn’t mean it is too late for this year. You are not destined to waste time. You can be given an opportunity tomorrow to be grasped with both hands.

Isn’t there more to it?

Yes, you are right. I also want to encourage you that striving to make improvements in your life is a worthy cause. And diligently planning for it is not to be despised. Encouragement, that despite the drawbacks… despite the many ways we fallible humans can mess things up, setting goals can be a productive and worthwhile process to use to help ourselves improve.

As Proverbs so eloquently counseled “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

That courage thing

It is easy to get discouraged. I know… This is often touted as one of the worst times of year. It is daunting to set goals, hoping for future strength, when you know you don’t have any right now. And that’s ok. No-one is saying you have to set goals. But neither is anyone saying you can’t. However small.

Maybe you have a setback like illness, where you must cut back on your efforts in order to allow yourself to recover. It is important to correctly budget this to avoid weighing yourself down by guilt or failure. Recognising a smaller goal in such an instance can help keep you going psychologically, all the more neccessary when your poor brain is getting that beating from your bodily weakness. Try something simple like drinking your set amount of water for the day.

Where next?

There are good, wise methods to help you support yourself in how to achieve goals. If you’d like to research it, I’d suggest exploring the concepts of S.M.A.R.T. objectives, a common industry-standard nowadays.

I would also commend to you a thoughful addition by Michael Hyatt: this gets the blood pumping in your veins, to help you see the vision behind what you are doing.

..and a Happy New Year 2012!

I hope you are enjoying every minute lived-out to the glory of God. Diligently planned by us, as best we can, but ultimately, alone planned by God. If the two should collide, there needs be no cause for regret. Pray for grace, because it is grace alone that can make us truly content.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

 
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Posted by on Friday, January 13, 2012 in discipline, encouragement

 

Sin hurts

072 We like honesty, integrity, faithfulness, respectability, sincerity, and so we should! Without idolising them, or twisting them merely for personal pride or advancement, there is an appropriately good place to strive after them.

Rather pray for grace to tell the truth than grace because we wish to tell a lie. Rather grace to take action than hide in the crowd of do-nothing-ers.

But we do not always have the blessed priveledge of achieving these worthy goals.

I cancelled dinner plans recently. I did not enjoy doing so; I did not want to do so. I had to do so.

Why?

I was physically sick.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t enjoy it. Not the sickness of course, but also not the lack of dependability that is inevitable. I want to follow through on my word. I want to respect a friend who is willing to spend time with me. I want to be trusted.

That is the pain of living in a fallen world. While a Providential limitation is not sinful in itself, the hurt still hurts.

“who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2

Yet even in this, God is good. He provides for us. He overcomes our weakness with His strength.

Even more importantly, He can show us more of Himself. Either directly, or – what I often find in such trials – more of our own sinfulness and duplicity of heart in order to drive us to Himself as our only Saviour.

What did I really want in this scenario? What do I really want in my life? Do I want God’s glory, whatever the personal cost – in humiliation and the open display of my weakness to the world. Or do I want to be respected in the eyes of others?

It is my own sin that really hurts me the most. My lack of faith in our good God. That sin I need to confess and repent of, and go running to my Heavenly Father with, ashamed that I have not taken it to Him already and laid my concerns at His feet, knowing He will care for me.

God is merciful. He is a gracious High Priest, interceding for us, sinners that we are. He can be trusted with our problems. He will do right by us. He is worthy of our attention and focus. We should spend our problems with Him – there is no greater relief. There is no greater joy.

I would commend the following sermons to you for further meditation and Scriptural direction regarding the hurt our sin does to us*. Specifically, this collection concerns the ways we as Christians sin in the church – against ourselves, against one another, against God.

Colossians 3:5
Colossians 3:5-10 (Part 1)
Colossians 3:5-10 (Part 2)

These sermons both comforted and challenged me from the Word of God when I first heard them. Mostly comforted though. I pray by Gods grace they will aid the same function again, both in me and you.

*While I have no hesitation in recommending these as to their content, I will just say I’ve not heard them in over a year, and I can’t remember many of the details. And so if they don’t fully align with the theme I discuss, I apologise. They’re worth listening to in their own right, completely apart from anything I say.

 
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Posted by on Friday, December 16, 2011 in encouragement

 

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“But who was the man with the kind eyes?”

I have yet to hear a more fitting tribute to Rev Hugh Cartwright than the words quoted in the title of this post. My beloved pastor for three years while living in Edinburgh. [Photo: used with permission from a friend, thankyou!]

It speaks much to his godly humility, that even in controversy, his stance on the issues of the day were held in high esteem. He manifested a balanced faithfulness that left contenders speechless – and personally humbled – at the honesty and clarity which he held.

I experienced this first-hand while in the mire of some of my own painful Providences. (Most of you who are close friends of me in real life know I’ve had some share…) I can say with enthusiasm that that faithfulness was a balm to wounded hearts. A much-needed balm, a witness for good, an encouragement, and greatly to be cherished.

There is many words that could be spoken in favour of his commendable witness, but it does not follow that merit increases in proportion, and hence I have no regrets in pausing personal reflection here, and instead pointing you to The Banner of Truth obituary.  

Here I highlight only a summary to whet your appetite, or even encourage you anew if this is all familiar precious ground.

He would stand fast on his convictions but make his point in a humble, balanced and biblical manner.

my last memory of Hugh at a mid-week prayer meeting was of his moving plea that God would grant a greater unity among the churches in Scotland.

And not to be forgotten, this childhood description of him was true to his latter years, a most delightfully balanced combination:

both ‘mischievous and very diligent’

We can benefit from the faithful example he set forth to us. Whether you knew him or not, I commend to your thoughts and meditation a question that was quoted from his lips:

‘So it comes back to the same question — What think ye of Christ?’

 
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Posted by on Friday, December 9, 2011 in encouragement

 

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