What is life, and what do I want from it?

Do you ever feel that you are just ‘plodding’ on in life? That things are ok … nothing to complain about… that you’re “happy enough, I guess” but you feel that you are lacking the ‘WOW’ factor ? That’s how I’ve felt for a while. Quite a while, actually.

I can’t see the path that I’m on and I have no idea what I am “doing” with my life. I know that I’m not ‘entitled’ to see the path that God has for me… that He makes the plans, not me. I know that God’s plan is better than any plan I would ever make. I just wish He’d give me a hint once in a while, and let me know what way to go.

Many-Paths-To-Take

I’ve really been seeking in this lately. I had a long talk with my discipler a few weeks ago, and we thought about why I feel so aimless. I think partly it’s because my life now doesn’t match up to the expectations that I had for myself when I was younger, and in comparison with others around my age, I feel a bit inadequate.

I turn 28 in 2 months. (2 months minus 2 days actually)  If you had asked me 10 years ago, aged almost 18, where I would be now, in April 2017, here’s what I’d have said:

qualified social worker, happy in my job, owning my own home, married, probably with at least one child

Well…I have one of those things ticked off, since I qualified as a social worker almost 7 years ago. I’m still pretty pleased with my accomplishment, although 7 years post-qualified doesn’t feel all that much progression from 1 year post-qualified, and doesn’t get any more recognition from my current employer

It’s clear to me that life now is not what I thought it would be.

Job: I’m *ok* with my job but it would be hard to say I’m happy. I had a bad few weeks in March and spontaneously applied for another job…in Plymouth. When the interview offer came, I realised I didn’t want to move back home, but I am open to looking for another job where I might feel more stretched, or challenged, or at least valued – which I don’t always. Don’t get me wrong, compared to my old job I’m positively ecstatic and I’m in no way dismissing the great gift that God gave me by rescuing me from my old place and moving me here… but over the past few months it all seems ‘samey’ and I don’t like ‘samey’. I like challenge and new and feeling that I am making a difference.

  • I am doing something about this though (this is not purely a moany post, don’t worry) I am waiting on a date with our Head of training and development to talk about further training options that I can take up, since I’m a big geek and like to learn and pass on what I’ve learned

Home: I love my home. I have a very lovely housemate. I have almost abandoned the hope of owning my own place. I am a working professional with a steady job, but house prices are so high that even with a very healthy savings account there is no way I will be able to afford to buy. Even if I were to scrimp and save even more (I save the equivalent of my monthly rent and utilities bills every month, but still have plenty of money left for treats and luxuries and holidays etc…for point of reference) it would probably still not be enough since house prices just keep going up!

I feel content with this, now. I realised that I was working towards owning my own home because that’s what people my age do. The main difference was that either most people my age, who were buying houses, were married (therefore 2 incomes, therefore less financial strain and slightly better chance at affording local houses) or had parents who could help with deposits (or sometimes both)

Since I’m single, and since I don’t have any wealthy (or even ‘well off’) relatives waiting in the wings to give me all their money, and since actually I don’t want the responsibility of having to pay for boiler services and roof leaks and broken pipes and blah blah blah, I have decided that it is actually completely practical and completely acceptable to be renting……. although it took a long time to decide that since it’s not what people my age do!

Marriage and children: … no ring on this finger…no current prospect of one. Does that mean I’m a failure?! Um. NO. It doesn’t mean that I’m putting my life on hold and sitting like a Disney Princess waiting for my Prince to come, and it doesn’t mean I’m out there on every dating website and desperate for a man (nothing against dating sites, just not for me)

I’m living life as it is…and open to a relationship if I meet the right person…but it hasn’t happened yet and comparing my singleness with friends who were married, with one or more kids, when they were my age, is not helpful.

comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy-black-and-white-watercolor-canvas

So, going back to my original point. Life is OK. I have a busy life and activities all over the place … dance class and choir on Mondays, Pilates on Tuesdays, Yoga on Wednesdays, Small Group on Thursdays, Yoga on Fridays, rest on Saturdays, and church on Sundays. Also, I crochet, I binge-watch Netflix, I read, I am exploring my family history, I help my friends in their garden renovation project, I practice self care and get regular massages, I go for brunch and afternoon tea, and I go to the cinema with friends (we loved Beauty and the Beast).

I’m busy and happy…but I still feel a bit purposeless…and it feels that I’m often just finding activities that fill my time up so that a) I’m not bored and b) to exhaust me so that I don’t get attacked by my insomnia [but that’s a post for another day]

Recently I asked my small group to pray for me, about this feeling of purposeless…and one person had a picture of me carrying a tablecloth, all bundled up, with lots of things in it… like this I think:

hobostick4

(who knew this was called a ‘hobo stick’?! Not me, but it seems appropriate)

Anyway, he had a picture of me carrying a bundle full of things I wanted…and felt God was encouraging me to lay the bundle down, spread the tablecloth out, and take up only what I wanted from the things carried inside.

I’ve been praying about that every since, trying to identify the things I’m carrying, hoping for, wanting, and filter out whether these are things that I really want for myself, or whether I want them just because I feel I should (see above about buying a house)

Since that time though, I feel almost more purposeless because there are several things I think I want and I don’t know which of them is right. I feel like a compass with all these different things, or opportunities, in different directions and there’s no arrow pointing me to the right one!

I know that I’m not lost. Not really. There’s a poem by JRR Tolkein which goes;

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring

There’s a lot of hope in that, and in knowing that God’s plans for me are completely known to Him –

Jer-29.11-e1363787816786

Being patient and waiting for Him to lead me though….. that’s another matter!

 

 

 

-x-

 

 

 

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The last seven months…

Hi there,

I’m back (I think).

After several failed attempts at writing this post, I think I am just about ready to enter the blogosphere again. [Is that a real word?]

The observant among you will know it’s been about 7 months since I last wrote…but for a few months before that, my posts were really sporadic. I intentionally took an extended break because life became a little too challenging for me to continue to invest in my blog. There was so much I couldn’t say here, for a number of reasons, and while writing is (and always has been) an outlet, what was going on in life was just too overwhelming to put into print.

Cryptic? Yes. Concerning? Perhaps. It was definitely a tough time, but I am seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now.

So let’s catch-up, shall we? How have you been?? It’s a bit late coming, but happy 2015. I spent New Year with some great friends, eating a 7 course dinner and drinking sparkling wine when the clock struck 12.

london2

2015 is a New Year in more ways than one, for me. 2015 signalled the start of something new – a new job, a fresh start, and a “rebirth” of sorts [sorry, that’s such a hippy word]

I started January 2015 in a new social work role within a different fostering organisation. I don’t think many decisions I have made in my life could have been better for me, than the decision to quit my previous job. I am truly enjoying my work for the first time in more than a year – I can remember why I wanted to be a social worker in the first place and my new company is brilliant at valuing its employees and I really enjoy being a part of their team.

social work

Having said that, it has taken (is taking) some time to adjust to a new workplace. Not in terms of the practical aspects; that I had nailed within a few days thanks to a very efficient set of systems, brilliant colleagues and above all a wonderful line manager. No, what I am still getting used to is working in an environment that encourages rather than puts down, supports rather than degrades, and values rather than scorns. It was made just barely manageble by some genuinely lovely colleagues – but the leadership and the overall environment that had become so intensely difficult and stressful, and so emotionally gruelling and (let’s just say it) hellish, that actually, in March 2015 I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because the level of stress and anguish I was experiencing daily, hour upon hour, and the horrendous situation that happened when I left (which I might write about at some point, but not now) caused a significant emotional trauma.

I was in that environment, feeling that way, for over a year – and what I have realised is that my traditional way of coping and managing my feelings (i.e. pretending it was fine, except to the people closest to me) was enough to sustain me whilst I was in the midst of it but it wasn’t until I got out of it, and began working in a safe space that I started to slightly unravel. All of the anxiety that I hadn’t let myself feel in that year started to come out, in mostly irrational ways (for example, near panic attacks at big roundabouts, triple-checking emails to see if they could be misinterpreted, intense and terrifying nightmares, and just generally feeling like life and work couldn’t possibly be this good – I began to think that everything my old employer made me feel about myself was true…and it was only a matter of time before my new employers realised this.

Of course…since getting the PTSD “label” and starting to talk a bit more openly about my experience I have realised that a lot of that was the trauma, and not real. I think I knew it at the time but it was hard to accept. There is also the *possibility* that the anti-anxiety medication I am taking is having a therapeutic effect as well, but I think it is a mixture of all things combined and I know there is a significant amount of healing to be done in the next weeks/months.

rainbow

It was a bit scary to type all that, I won’t lie. Admitting vulnerabilities and struggles is not something I am altogether comfortable with…but I had to give it a go. I have found that a big part of working through this is being honest about how my old workplace made me feel, and what it has “done to me” and owning that “label” may not seem like a tremendous thing…but it is.

So … PTSD. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a PTSD or a “recovery” blog (nothing against those, they’re just not me). This blog is still just about little old me and my randomness…but right now little old me has this thing called PTSD, so it’s probably going to feature for a while. I hope that’s ok.

Equally, little old me is starting to rediscover past passions – like colouring (yes it’s therapeutic, but it’s also just good fun) and dress-making, and I am really enjoying having the physical time and the emotional ‘head-space’ to enjoy these things again. So those endeavours might make an appearance here too. I’m excited about that!

Anyway…that’s all from me for now. Hopefully I will be back again soon 🙂

-x-

misdirected emotions

I am a great example of how to display an emotion completely separate from what I m actually feeling. I have written before that I can be an ostrich when it comes to emotions and feelings but I also have a knack for completely dwelling on something minor as a way to distract myself from what I’m really feeling.

Case in point: about 2 hours ago I said goodbye to my wonderful American friends. I just about held the tears back as the kids all got emotional and as they prayed for me and told me their favourite things about my visit. I felt so sad to be leaving that I wanted to tell Rachel to turn the car around and I would just stay forever!

(But of course I didn’t and I said goodbye at the bus stop with a huge knot in my tummy and a lump in my throat from trying so hard not to lose it)

So then I spent an hour on the bus trying not to cry, reading my Bible and praying and looking at pictures. By the time I got to the airport I still felt sad but I was thankful for my time with the Libbys.

Then I checked in and my bag was too heavy and I had to pay the excess fee and instead of being my usual practical self and rearranging items between my carry-ons to make my check-in lighter I just went ahead and paid the whole charge! Which left me kicking myself all through Security for not making a wise decision.

Of course, I got so frustrated with myself over it because I didn’t want to think about what I was missing with Rachel and the kids.

I really had to fight to let go of that frustration and not let it take away from the joyful time I’ve had. Seriously, I’ve just had 2 wonderful weeks with some of my favourite people and I’m going to dwell on an insignificant thing like paying a baggage charge?!

How could my heart and head be so ungrateful so suddenly. It honestly took a lot of prayer and thanking God for all blessings of the last two weeks to make me see that while yes, maybe I made a silly split second decision, but it was even sillier to let it spoil my heart.

In the end I was thanking God that he provided me with enough spending money in my purse that I could pay the charge in cash and still have enough for a Starbucks while I wait for my boarding time. He didn’t have to provide that, but He did, because He loves me.

One thing I am taking away from this experience is to always have a thankful heart even when you feel silly or frustrated with your situation, because there are too many blessings to count if you look for them.

The other thing I am taking away from this is to be more wware of what I am feeling and why. This has always been a thing for me, and I have to constantly examine myself: what am I feeling, why am I feeling that way? But now I also need to challenge myself to change my attitude if it is not right and focused on God.

Such deep thoughts whilst sat at Gate D11. I have another hour or so until my flight starts boarding so I think I will head around the concourse in search of that Starbucks!

-x-

Day 3/5 of Ofsted – or – I am BLESSED

I have been a social worker for 3 years now. I was with the Agency where I am now employed as a student for a year before I qualified. So that makes 4 years of fostering experience. There have been many times in those four years where I thought “surely this [incident/event/situation] is as stressful as it’s going to get. Once I’ve got through this, it’ll be a piece of cake…”

And then Ofsted came.

Having every teeny part of my work – our Agency’s work – scrutinised, is exhausting. I think I’ve spent about 15 hours with the inspector over the past 3 days.

Last night on the way home I prayed for today’s meetings with the inspector, that God would give me wisdom and peace in it all, that our staff morale would boost (scrutiny is stressful) …and then I remembered something…

My salvation is not affected by this inspection

Jesus died for me. His opinion of me is never going to change.

Irrespective of what this inspector says about the agency I work for, or even about me specifically (good or bad) I am saved. This is what God says about me:

I am a child of God.
But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).

I am a friend of Jesus.
But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

I have been justified and redeemed
But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

The Holy Spirit dwells in me…
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

…and helps me.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my [Jesus] name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

I am BLESSED
…our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

And so, in conclusion – for now…

Yes, Ofsted is very scary and intimidating and exhausting and time-consuming and emotional and I don’t really like it…

I know that I am blessed…and it will be okay.

 

I quit…

Yes. I am quitting my supposed August blog challenge. Sorry.

I think I was a bit over-ambitious in choosing August to commit to blogging every day. Usually it would be a good month…it’s summer after all, and usually things slow down a little (lot) but this year seems to be an exception;

This is because my work is awaiting our 3 yearly Ofsted Inspection. We think they will come unannounced, because we have never had this – but we may get some notice. Either way, we think they have to come by September 10th as that was when our last report was issued… so we are on tenterhooks trying to ensure that we are prepared for it.

Last time, in 2010, we were good with outstanding features. This year we are really gunning for OUTSTANDING because that would be AMAZING.

Of course, striving for a greater “grade” means lots of hard work. We have scrutinised our previous report to work out where we ‘let ourselves down’ (I say “we” … I was having my tonsils out at the time we were being inspected, but never mind)

It’s made a little more complicated, due to the fact that it’s August and everyone is trying to take their holiday and also because my manager is due to go on Maternity Leave on the 30th.

Add that pressure to the fact that I have worked 65 hours’ Overtime in the past 2 months and you might understand why I am a little frazzled.

And so, that is why it is not the best idea for me to try and do a blog challenge. On my free nights I just want to rest without pressure to do anything, and on the evenings when I am out of the house, I cannot find time to blog.

There we have it.

I am aiming to be less stressed in the next few weeks. I have booked a week off from Weds 22nd and that will be just glorious. A week in Plymouth, going to see Sense and Sensibility at an outdoor theatre, and just not having to do very much.

Won’t that be lovely

-x-

DAY 5…

I’m skipping day 5’s subject – for two reasons: 1) it’s a stupid topic, 2) it’s 2 minutes to 11pm and I just remembered I was meant to be posting today. I really don’t seem to have the hang of this anymore!

Today has been a trying day. Work was a bit tough on Friday and while I thought I’d managed to sort out the situation, it all rose up again over the weekend and there was nothing much anyone could really do to untangle this mess.

I don’t feel I did very well… but amazingly there is grace for today and a bright hope for tomorrow, so I shall sleep and trust in God, and try again on Tuesday.

God really blessed me today – just as I was driving home from the gym I thought to myself that today was one of the times I regretted not having a housemate – because I didn’t want to sit at home by myself, watching TV or reading or something, but probably dwelling on the day.

As I pulled into a parking space, who did I see but 4 friends from church – all stood in a line across the road waiting for me to notice them. They were off to the pub and invited me…what an answer to my heart’s cry. I needed people and there they were. We went to the pub and I have had a lovely evening chatting and laughing.

I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to go out on a “school night” though…now I am tired, but fortunately I have a late start tomorrow so I can have at least another 30 minutes’ sleep.

But hallelujah and praise God for His mercies and goodness, right? I find it incredible when he blesses me like that – even the little things, he takes care of.

A great thought to end the day with

-x-

DAY 3 & 4

I’m really not doing very well at this “blog post per day” malarkey, am I?

Day 3: A book you love

Oh heavens, where do I start?! There are so many books I love. I almost typed “too many” then, but I corrected it because I really don’t think you can every read too many books. Books are heavenly. If I wasn’t a reader, I don’t know who I would be. Books have shaped my character so much – I grew up devouring books!

My mum used to make us sit on the stairs if we were naughty (at some points all four of us were on the stairs…a few steps apart so we couldn’t kick each other, you know) But in one house we lived in this was great for me, because it was a staircase that went round corners and there was a big step where we kept a bookcase. If I got sent to the stairs for punishment, more likely than not I’d end up reading a book or two whilst I waited to be ‘released’

So you see, this topic is very difficult for me, because to choose just one book sort of goes against my nature. But if I had to choose, it would be Little Women, by Louisa May Allcott. (But I’m cheating slightly because I love the trilogy – they come together, as a set and I will not choose one over the others)

I feel like this is my “go to” book – I can read it time and time and again, and I love it the same every time. It never gets boring (although I do skip the chapter where the sisters act out a Christmas play with their friends, since that’s not really essential to the story after the first five or six times you read it!)

I love Little Women (and the sequels: Good Wives, and Little Men) for so many reasons.

I love Jo, the main protagonist for her feisty character and headstrong ways, I love Meg because she tries so hard to fulfil her role as the oldest girl and be an example – but lets the side down a few times (particularly in Good Wives). I love Beth, quiet and gentle Beth because who can help but love her – and I even love silly little Amy because some of the things that she says are quite profound and deep down she has a good heart underneath all her annoying ways (although I will never forgive the author for pairing Laurie off with Amy. Even though Jo is so wonderfully happy with the Professor in the later books, I despair everytime I read the sections where Laurie and Amy fall in love – because it should be Jo!

I love Marmee because she’s everything and more – wise, gentle, kind, strong, loving, nurturing… and I love Mr March too, even though he isn’t around for most of the first book, because when he does come home to his girls he is perfection.

I could go on and on, but I won’t (because I have bread rising and if I get too carried away it will all go wrong) so I will just say that if you have never read Little Women, you are absolutely missing out – and if you haven’t read the sequels (both of them!) then you absolutely must.

Your character will be better for it.  

Day 4: Bullet [point] your entire day

Well, the day is not quite over yet… but I’ll share what I’ve been up to so far

  • Woke up at 7.30am and listened to Good Morning Sunday on Radio 2, checked Postsecret and Facebook and all the other very exciting and important things on my phone
  • 8.00am  – got up and had a bath
  • 8.30am – had breakfast (congratulations to Lidl for making the worst breakfast cereal ever) and watched last night’s Casualty on IPlayer (Karen Thatcher, don’t you judge me)
  • 9.35am – left for church…
  • 9.45am – arrived at church!
  • 10am – 12pm – church 🙂 We have a great sermon from Derek Reynolds, about the plagues in Eqypt (Let my people go…you’ve surely seen the Prince of Egypt) and how when things ‘plague’ us in our lives or when we suffer, it can be hard to worship – but why we should do so anyway
  • 12.30pm – home and made lunch – grilled chicken with sweet potato chips and a courgette/celery/tomato salad – which was yummy, and which I ate in my garden whilst reading “The Storyteller”. Thisi s Jodi Picoult’s new book…and I am enjoying it so far. I was disappointed with her last two so in a way am giving her one more chance…!
  • 1.30 – did some gardening. I bought plants yesterday using a voucher that my Mum gave me for my birthday. I now have a lovely sunflower, some purple verbena, marigolds, 2 strawberry plants,  and also a pink flower that is very pretty but I have no idea what it is. Go figure.
  • 2.30pm – Wrote in my “thankfulness book”. This is something that our small group are doing together; like in the book “1000 gifts” or the song “10000 reasons”. We are all “counting our blessings” and recording them in little books, for a year.
  • After that I decided I wanted to make bread. In between stages I’ve been sitting in my garden, reading and listening to music. I love that I still get my WiFi in my garden. It’s beautiful, sitting here in the afternoon sun listening to the Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack or worship music. I am blessed

And now it’s 4.07pm and I need to go and put my loaf of bread (organic spelt loaf…actually) in the oven, so I’ll sign off by saying that I will try to do better and actually post day 5 tomorrow!

-x-