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The Art of Looking After Yourself

Recently I’ve heard the phrase, “Just make sure you’re looking after yourself” too many times to count. Originally when people started saying it to me I just brushed it off as sort of a, “Oh yea, I already do that.” As it was said more and more, I’ve realised that I’m not sure that I fully understood it. It wasn’t just about trying to get enough sleep, and making sure that I’m eating right. It’s actually about paying attention to how I’m actually feeling. It’s made me realise yet again in my life, that admitting that I’m not in a good head space isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t help me to pretend everything is fine if it’s not. I have to actually deal with things to feel better sometimes.

You’re allowed to not be okay, but the next part you face is how do you then help yourself to be okay? And not just saying you’re okay but actually and truthfully being okay. It’s not necessarily easy and it’s not necessarily going to be the same for every person. Finding the way to do this is completely personal.

Whether it is by spending time with by yourself, spending time with close friends. Learning to listen to yourself, speaking up and being honest with how you feel to other people. No one method is the same and that is completely normal. But if you have a problem with finding your own method, try speaking to an adult you trust about it. It will take a lot of courage but it will be worth it in the end. There are definitely multiple people in your life who would love to listen and help you.

Learn your version of looking after yourself.

Home

The first church I went to was the Salvation Army in Invercargill. I remember the first time I went there - listening to the youth sing and play instruments while the other churchgoers sang along, seeing people I’d known priorly and meeting people who I’d know in the future. The first time I went to that church I thought to myself: ‘Hey, this is actually pretty fun! These are pretty cool people.”

While admittedly I wasn’t always present at the church (I had a bad habit of sleeping in), every time I made it through those doors on a Sunday, I was blown away by how much relevance the messages would have in my life. It was always as though God would say to me ‘This is the message I have for you, go hear it.’ And it was even the same at the youth group. In some sort of uncanny way the youth leader Cass always had a message about something so evident in my life.

The town that I live in now doesn’t have a Sallies church. Instead they have a small church, which fits the wedding-aesthetic, but it is still charming. While now I don’t have my family-through-faith around me (though I know they’re always there for me, as I am for them), I still have God who says: ‘I will give you a message myself - I will give you the true reassurance you need.’

Now, while I still sleep-in, I can still go down to that little church throughout the week, where I don’t hear people laughing and singing but rather the gentle sound of hymns, and think about my life and ask for answers; for guidance.

And though I may not be at home with the Sallies, I am at home with God in His Place, and that is reassuring for me.
Wherever I go I will always have a place of hope and guidance and as long as I bear that in mind throughout my experiences, I will always be free.

Healing Waters

One of the things that I’ve learnt about myself this year is just how much I love the Wellington waterfront. I’m born and bred in Wellington so I’ve always been around it, but it’s only this year that I’ve fully realised just how stunning and magical it is. Every time I have a free weekend or evening, I now always try to head there and just sit and take in how beautiful it all is.

So once again, I went there this weekend for a moment of peace and refreshment before beginning the various errands and projects of the weekend. I’ve had a pretty rough few weeks with one thing and another so wasn’t in the greatest headspace, but it’s amazing how even just half an hour looking out over the water can change my feelings and perspective on things.

As I take in the beauty of the view, it reminds me that I'm one very small piece of a much bigger world. It reminds me that even when there is tragedy, heartache, terror, corruption, fear and anger, there is still beauty and good in this world too. It reminds me that when life is hard, God is still good and blesses me with good gifts, even something as simple as that stunning harbour view. It reminds me that God loves us so much that he created this beautiful world for us to live in, cherish, look after and enjoy - what a gift! And in that moment, peace washes over me and I can choose joy to trump over whatever I’m battling.

Sitting and looking out over the still water this weekend, the words of an old song ran through my head:

When shall I come unto the healing waters?
Lifting my heart, I cry to thee my prayer,
Spirit of peace, my Comforter and healer,
In whom my springs are found, let my soul meet thee there.

From a hill I know,
Healing waters flow;
O rise, Immanuel’s tide,
And my soul overflow!

The image of water is used so frequently throughout the bible to describe the healing that Jesus brings, and while these are beautiful pictures that we read, I think I’m starting to discover that for me, I am best reminded when I see it with my own eyes. A vast expanse of blue water gleaming in the sunlight. Alive and perfect.

Indeed my soul does find rest at those healing waters.

Slippers

In my last blog I talked about slippers. This time I’m going to talk about cross stitch. I think that well and truly confirms my status as an under-40 nana, despite me not having any grandchildren. I think I’m okay with that, especially as I’m of the opinion that Sunday afternoon nana naps are one of the best inventions ever. Do I hear an “Amen”?

Anyway, cross stitch.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with cross stitch, there are two sides: a front and a reverse. Of course the front is the side that looks pretty and is where the pattern appears. Some patterns are full of colours, but others use different shades of the same colour to create a more subtle design. Personally, I prefer the colours, but everyone is different.

Many years ago my Aunty Jane, who is a handcrafting legend, told me that what separates a good cross stitcher from an average cross stitcher, is what the reverse side looks like. Some people say that it doesn’t matter what the reverse looks like, as long as the front looks good, and often the backs of their stitching will be chaotic and messy and full of knots. Others prefer to keep the reverse nice and tidy, with short tails and neat stitching.
So this could be a blog about the reverse sides of our lives; the bits that people don’t see. Is your “reverse side” total chaos with a mess that you try to hide from the rest of the world? I’ve been there, it’s not fun. And it’s hard to keep the front looking good when the reverse is in such a bad state. I encourage you to ask God and others for help to try and make some sense out of the messy bits.

But I want to end on a different note. You know, the amazing thing with cross stitch, is that every little stitch is important. It takes time and patience, but every little stitch works together to create beautiful patterns and pictures. When I cross stitch, I like to think about God and life, and how He works all things together for good for those that love him (Romans 8:28). Sometimes we can’t make sense of all the little (or big!) things that happen in life, but God sees the big picture, and He cares about even the smallest detail of our lives. And He is always working in the background to create a beautiful design. If we choose to cooperate with Him and His ways, both the front and the reverse sides of our lives can be detailed patterns full of colour that express God’s patience and care.

Scripture of the Week

Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."