I love how Catherine brings each Bible story to life in her book. She discusses 7 different Bible characters in depth, using an almost Ignatian style, where you can imagine yourself in each scene, immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of those times, interacting with the people there. She helps you to better understand each character’s circumstances and the challenges they face.
As someone who can struggle with concentration whilst reading sometimes, I was surprised at the depth of detail she goes into as she explores how the story is relevant to us in our own individual lives. I tried to use this as a daily devotional but concluded this would work better in a group setting where there was more time to prepare and read the suggested connected Bible passages in the study questions. There would be more time to discuss the themes Catherine brings to light.
However the encouragement her writing brings, in turning around characters’ difficulties and sometimes their self-inflicted situations, is palpable. It shows how God can work through our failures and is an inspiration and hope for all of us in using these shortcomings for His glory.
This book will delight those who can identify with the difficulties each character endures Seeing the transformation of its characters to demonstrate how God moves in our broken lives. Those low times that aren’t the end of the story. It’s also for those looking for more in-depth study of the some less known characters in the Bible.
I’m grateful to SPCK who kindly allowed me to read a pre-publication of this book. This is my own honest opinion of the book.
The past 18 months or so have seen us constantly adapting to the changing rhythms and expectations that life has thrown at us. There have been some real positives to taking life at a slower pace and being able to reassess what are the most important things to us. However there have also been some huge challenges to our mental health, family relationships and adjusting to a restricted daily routine whilst locked down.
What have been the things that you’ve most appreciated from lockdown? And what are the lessons you’ve learned that you want to keep applying now that life has become crazy busy again? It may be helpful to think about the current pace of life and whether this is suiting you?
My Own RecentExperience
For me, I know that the pace of life has become too fast at times and I’ve had to choose to step back and reflect on what I want to do differently. What is a manageable level of busyness and what is too much? My warning signs have been letting go of my usual self-care as I’ve been too busy and the odd moment of overwhelm where the level of activity feels like too much for my brain to manage.
The wake up call for me particularly was my catching the freshers flu a few weeks back and suddenly being forced to stop and rest for a week. I’d been attending several large scale in person events over 2 weeks and hadn’t been planning too far ahead. Before I knew it, my energy levels dropped as I fought off tiredness, achiness and a stuffy nose. I couldn’t concentrate for long and knew I had to stop.
There was a relief in acknowledging this and giving myself permission to rest. It was only then that I realised I’d been pushing myself too hard and that I wanted to slow down my pace.
Another warning sign was feeling I didn’t have time to do some things and was rushing – a sign anxiety was setting in. As I took some well-earned rest, I enjoyed watching The Good Wife on catch up TV whilst munching on some favourite snacks. I felt my mind unwind and I was able to breathe easy again; just be without having to think much about what to do next.
As I started to prioritise ‘me time’ and planned to catch up with a few friends, I started to get my energy levels back. Also I began to realise that a rest day per month would be beneficial to my wellbeing. More than that, I began to reflect on my recent business projects and saw that I’d been spreading myself too thinly. I was able to step back and reassess what my priorities were and where attempts at certain work streams were unproductive, an inefficient use of my time. Having discovered some free printables, I used the brain dump sheet to write down all of the work tasks that had been swirling around my head. I began reprioritising , focusing on what was urgent/ important now, whilst letting go of the other tasks for a later date.
I found the courage to action some tasks that I’d been afraid to confront, that had made me feel fear of being a failure before. As I addressed these , a new sense of purpose arose and I let go of unhelpful mindsets that had kept me stuck. I started to recognise the hard work I’d been putting in and praised myself for taking that much needed break.
As I recovered, I gradually started to focus more on work tasks again, doing only what I had the energy for. Slowly I started to feel better and had more energy to focus on the priorities. A sense of enjoyment surged inside of me and I felt ready to move forward.
Now when I start to notice I’m putting myself under pressure, I ask myself if I really need to. Using positive self-talk, I recognise what I’m doing well and think about what self-care I need instead. As I do this , my energy levels improve and my mind starts to relax somewhat, ready to face the new challenges ahead.
Dr. Kate Middleton, in her book, Refuel, talks about the importance of self-care, especially when we are looking after others around us. It’s easy to forget our own needs in all of that. Having recognised what activities tend to deplete our energy levels, finding other activities that re-energise us helps to compensate. Diarising rest times in also means we’re more likely to apply these if we’ve committed them to paper!
Finding Your Own Pace
Take some time to reflect and ask yourself:
What level of busyness works for you?
What are the warning signs to look out for when you’re starting to do too much?
What helps you relax and switch off from being busy?
Do you find it difficult to say no when asked to do something you don’t have time for? Or something that doesn’t quite sit with your own values?
This is something that all of us have to face and some of us seem stronger in being able to say no than others. It can be especially hard if you’re a people pleaser by nature, I know how this feels from personal experience.
For example, this morning, I found myself starting to clear surfaces around our old sink, ready for the new one to be fitted. I’d already promised myself to not do anything more, that it was my husband’s responsibility. But tiredness, a need to do things perfectly and keeping some sense of control temporarily took over. Particularly when the workman turned up & there was still gunk in the old sink! However rational brain took back control and I was able to walk away, just about!
If there’s anything this Covid season has taught me, it’s that I need to do less and keep things simple. But as our economy starts to open up and social expectations rise, I’ve found myself exhausted and alarm bells have been ringing at the back of my head. “Hang on, what happened to taking things slow and steady? How did I get back to this headless chicken state?”
It’s at this point I had to do a reality check. What am I trying to achieve here? What are my priorities and what are other people’s? A friend of mine has recently found herself diagnosed with a condition that means her energy levels change from one day to the next. We’ve been meeting to support each other’s creativity and she has taught me a lot about slowing down and taking things at my own pace, even in my business.
Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks a lot about the quest for perfectionism in our society and how it’s linked to shame, particularly in women. Her research shows that shame can be a result of not meeting society’s expectations around body image and women being kept in their place. I found these revelations a breath of fresh air, in the sense of realising the impact these pressures were having on me. She talks about naming perfectionism when she sees it in her own life to overcome the shame barrier. To say that it’s ok to do things to a good enough standard and let go of control when it’s not perfect.
So where do boundaries come into it all? It’s all about putting healthy limits on what we do. In a relationship, this may mean only being available at certain times or contacted in a certain way e.g. email if we supporting someone in need. See Dr Kate Middleton’s book, Refuel, for further info on this.
In a work scenario (this is particularly pertinent if you are still working from home WFH) – putting boundaries on your time. For me this means I only look at my email during my work hours and keep my workload to said scheduled work days. I know it’s not easy especially when we might still be home-based, but it’s important that work and home life don’t become too blurred.
A big help I’ve found is being able to step back from the situation when asked to do something and first say “I’ll think about it,” rather than an immediate “yes.”
Then I ask myself:
1. Do I realistically have time to do this activity? If that means looking at my schedule for the next week/month, so be it, to help me to decide.
2. Does this fit my values? Especially in business, I may find myself offered something which doesn’t sit right with me, in which case it’s also a ‘no.’ This is something that Nisha Vyas, life coach, taught me in a SEIDs seminar.
These questions can be life changing, because it gives us a framework from which to set up boundaries from.
If you want to read more about Boundaries, check out Townsend & Cloud’s book on the subject (see image above).
Boundaries take time to establish and be prepared for some kickback with those you set them with. They won’t like the status quo being changed. As you stick to your boundaries, things will get easier and the new limits will become accepted.
Is there an area of your life where you need to establish a new boundary? How can you put that into place? Will you need anyone or anything to help you reinforce it?
I wish you well in embracing this new boundary. It may feel hard at first but it will pay dividends in the long run.
I just wanted to end the year by sending you my new poem , partly on a Christmas theme. It’s been such an odd year, no one could have predicted what was to come.
But I’d like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, whatever that looks like for you. I pray you’ll be able to take the day as it comes and remember the good things, no matter how small and simple they are.
I look forward to greeting you again in the New Year, and just wanted to make you aware that I’ll be running an online Winter Wellness workshop on Thursday 21 January in the evening. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest. More details to follow…
Depending on your perspective of this Lockdown situation, you can see things in a positive or negative light, or oscillate between the two.
I know I started off very calmly and positively. My elder son’s school closed first and I took it in my stride. Then my younger son’s school also closed but there was a plan for being given and handing in work from home so things were ok. Gratitude was emphasised by my friends and I used this to remember what God has given us: a home, food to eat, each other and beautiful sunny weather to do things in the garden as a family. For someone who is often quite anxious I was surprisingly calm!
With all 4 of us at home, we started to work out a plan to share study space in the lounge and dining room, especially for our son studying for exams. At times, this positive attitude has given way to low mood, fighting the uncertainty of when lockdown might end and some sort of new normality appear. The challenge has been to keep reminding myself that this time will pass and we will be given our freedom to roam wherever we want to outdoors at some point. Lockdown isn’t forever!