The Bigger Picture

Thoughts about believing and keeping the faith…

It is hard to focus at times. Easy to lose faith and wonder what on earth is going to happen next. The ground seems to be shifting under our feet as we await the latest news and feel like we should hold our breath. That’s how it feels to me some days anyway. I am a bit of a thinker and I regard myself as a believer… I believe there is a bigger picture even if I can’t totally understand it and sometimes need to re-affirm my faith in it.

If you feel a bit like me, I hope these words might help a bit….

 

The Bigger Picture

We are part of a bigger and better picture

Even if we cannot see it,

Part of a Universe where we are free,

Even when we cannot feel it.

Part of a humanity where we see those who are invisible,

Rather than those who are in the limelight;

A place where we don’t nurture our fears

At the expense of others,

Or turn our backs when others weep.

In the quiet, long hours

With the challenge of despair,

We long to find this place of hope and new life,

For here is where all the bad things are banished,

No explanations are needed,

Yet we know all we need to know.

Now broken hearts are settled

And all that went before

Drops into an ocean of understanding.

And it is here, this place,

This bigger picture…

Waiting to reveal itself

When powerful hands let go of the reins

Review the compass

And allow us all to find the right way.

Here in this all-loving Universe,

Generous, kind hearts

Do their best for the common good.

(C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

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Finding our Way Again…First Steps Out

From a distance that seems safe, I wave ‘hello’ to a neighbour. ‘How are you?’ we ask each other. We both say ‘fine’. These days, ‘fine’ is what we want to hear. Small, daily interactions are not meaningless these days. We have all been stuck behind closed doors and isolated during lockdown, with upsetting and frightening news seemingly assailing us hourly. Heartbreaking scenes have played out before our eyes via the media. So when we hear ‘fine’ we relax a bit and feel thankful because we care. We care because life has become so fragile all of a sudden. And when we hear someone isn’t fine, we feel concerned for them, and also for the risk it poses generally.

Strangely, when things are easing a little, and we can get out and about a bit more, I have found the enormity of things hitting me again. Seeing the garden centre looking, well -different. It seems strange and unintentionally neglected, with its slightly straggly plants, and rather unkempt appearance, so different from normal years, and feels slightly eerie with fewer people who have to keep their distance. People look wary and nervous, not wishing to step in the wrong place, or do the wrong thing (mostly).

It may take us all a while to adapt again; to do things we once did without a second thought. Lockdown has given us a certain security, a knowing that being in our own homes brings safety and freedom. It is familiar and comfortable. When we know that our loved ones are in lockdown too, we feel relief because we know where they are.

But now we are starting to take the very first small steps towards a less restrictive way of living. Deprivation has hurt us. Uncertainty and scarcity, fear and , in some cases, separation, have taken their toll, but perhaps soon we can tap into some of the precious parts of life we knew.

Who knows what will happen over the coming weeks? There are so many who long to heal, so many who grieve and so many who long for life to be as it was before.

We think of cancelled holidays, cancelled weddings, jobs lost and so much more. Many people’s lives have been broken. Who knows how long it will be for lives to heal, physically, mentally and financially?

All I can say for some comfort, is that this has been a time to listen to every bird singing its heart out in the beautiful spring sunshine, a time to examine every bud on the rosebush, every sunbeam and every shadow. A time to cook up imaginative meals, read books we may not have read. I have experienced lovely acts of kindness, such as a friend sending little gifts and notes in the post. We have learned some things we may not have learned. Learned to say how much we miss each other. Learned to say ‘I love you’ more often.

Hopefully, we are  now edging to a post-pandemic situation and a time when we feel more ‘normal’ again. Can we stay as we are in some ways I wonder, even though we move forward? Can we remain flexible, keep the ‘gung ho’ spirit even when we are anxious, and remain resourceful? Let’s hope so.

I hope you are ‘fine’!

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Rattling the Pots – (time for some distraction)

I think it’s time to take our mind of all the desperately worrying and upsetting news, even if just for a moment or two. I am suspending my normal blog writing for the moment and posting some of my poetry instead.  I think we all have media fatigue – and whilst there is a need to be updated and follow guidelines, we need a break! Dare I say, even some of the copious postings about lockdown activities are getting a bit tedious!

Last evening when we stood outside our door clapping and rattling the saucepan lids it was wonderfully inspiring and showed human nature at its best; it was heartwarming and helps us all feel connected.

Just for while though, let me lead you through a golden meadow, full of flowers, and light (and some different pots!).

 

Rattling the Pots 

If I had a gypsy caravan 

I’d paint it blue and white,

And set it in a meadow

Full of flowers and light.

I’d stand where the old traveller stood

Within the patterned door,

Lay my hand upon the polished wood,

Rattle the pots once more.

I’d climb upon the cosy bed,

Lay on the covers of lace,

And imagine the sound of the creaking wheels

As they rolled from place to place.

And I would dream of a forgotten time

Where there would be paths still free to roam,

With undiscovered hills to climb,

And wherever I stopped was home.

(c) Lyn Halvorsen 

 

 

Let us look forward to the time when we can roam free again…..

 

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Encouragement for Today…

Maintaining normality….

Some encouragement and suggestions for today…

You may have already read this piece but I felt I wanted to add it here:

     ‘And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.’

                                                                    Attributed to Kitty O’Meara

 The above words are wise, thought provoking and beautiful.

But how do we steady ourselves today? The news is factual but dramatic. Of course we need to be informed but it is hard not to feel unsettled and anxious, even frightened.

At the moment we have to listen to the advice we are given and try and keep calm.

Here are a few things helping me feel calmer:

I have been watching the rooks building their nest for a while now. High in the trees and way above the rooftops, they are going about their business. Whatever the weather they come and go on a regular basis – dipping into our garden to help themselves to the bread on our lawn and flying backwards and forwards with twigs in their beaks to bolster up the nest. No matter what is happening on the ground onwards they go…

A selection of houseplants are arranged on my kitchen windowsill and whenever I look at the perky green leaves and tendrils I feel better. There is a softness in the natural colour. Above hangs a crystal which catches the sun and throws a rainbow of colours round the room and spreads healing energy.

Photographs are arranged on the shelf and I look at pictures of my wonderful sons, their beautiful wives and all nine of our adored grandchildren. I can imagine my hands on theirs. My arms around their shoulders. I can send them love, and love knows no boundaries.

As I write this I am listening to some music recommended by my daughter-in-law in America. She plays this to our youngest granddaughter every night. The music is peaceful, spiritual, harmonious . It helps to think that even when we are all apart, we can still share beautiful things.*

My husband is in the garden. I can hear him turning the soil with the fork, preparing the garden for the next season. The smell of newly mown grass is drifting in through the door. Tending the land is good for the soul and connects us to the earth.

I have been cooking. Chopping, blending, seasoning and then filling and shaping Cornish pasties just like my mother and grandmother before me. Home cooked food nourishes the soul as well as the body.

I have cleaned and tidied the house. There is something comforting in making our surroundings as pleasant as possible, especially if we have to stay in for while!

Looking for the silver lining helps – we may be frustrated because we cannot do a lot of the things we normally do without a second thought, but we are being given the gift of time. Time to have conversations with loved ones, time to reach out to neighbours who are grateful for our help, time to catch up on chores we have been putting off. Time to remember who and what is really dear to us. Time to put trivia aside and concentrate on what really matters. This is the time we wouldn’t have had if we were rushing around meeting deadlines.

I end by saying let’s encourage each other. Let us not isolate ourselves emotionally even if we have to physically. Find ways to relax. Stress does more damage than anything. Love and kindness matters. Let’s get through this scary time together.

 

*Hidden in My heart (A Lullaby Journey Through Scripture)

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How Do We Stay Calm During a Crisis?

What do we think about when fears are heightened ? ….

 

Up in our attic room with the wind howling, seemingly day after day, and the rain beating against the window, it is easy to question things and wonder if there is something out there conspiring to shake our stability.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has taken us into uncharted waters and for many it feels unsettling to say the least.

During scary times what do we do? We all have our own ways of coping with worrying times, but when we are bombarded with unsettling news it can be easy to lose focus and panic.

Many of us have to accept that situations we had planned so perfectly go left instead of right when the universe has other plans!

Here are just a few of my thoughts on coping during times when normal living may be temporarily (hopefully!) restricted.

Aiming to disconnect from our concerns – if only for a while, gives us time to process a dilemma and the surrounding emotions, and then we are able to approach a situation with fresh perspective.

It makes sense to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of sleep – well rested people are better at fighting off viruses.

It’s good to take a walk in the fresh air and look at the spring flowers – the banks are starry with beautiful yellow primroses and the blue crocuses are peaking out in clumps in gardens everywhere. That must make us feel hopeful. Nature always finds a way and Mother Nature is on our side.

If we can develop a ritual we enjoy – perhaps some meditation or some exercises we enjoy, we can increase our stamina. These simple routines can help us feel more empowered to handle trying situations.

It’s good to talk! When we call our friends and have a chat, we can tell each other how we feel. This helps us avoid feeling too isolated. Personal relationships are crucial in maintaining perspective, elevating mood and allowing distraction, taking us away from concerns that trouble us. Even in imposed isolation, it is important to combat loneliness and keep talking – for example, via video chats.

Continuing normal activities where possible and maintaining perspective will help us reduce unnecessary stress and is the key to psychological survival.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset’.   Saint Francis de Sales

I am going to try and make the most of it if I have unexpected time on my hands. I might get out my favourite books and re-read them. Perhaps I will start a journal and write down my daily thoughts – this is something I have been meaning to do for ages. I have a simple hardback book with unlined pages ready for me to decorate, write and doodle in! I also have a glue stick so I can paste in things of interest I have found.  Writing and being creative is marvellous for channeling our concentration. In fact, I think creativity is medicine. Since way back in time, humans have been soothed by making things with their hands.

Something I love doing when I write is to play some well-loved music in the background – I browse Spotify and listen to stuff I haven’t heard in a while. It’s good to go back in time a bit and reminisce!

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us’.  Martin Luther

I am regularly going to remind myself that things are happening that we couldn’t have imagined but that we are all in it together.

Man is Not Free From Conditions’ – Victor Frankl.

We are dealing with this virus as one world. Draw strength from loved ones, and in turn, stay positive and support your family and others around you. There will certainly be light at the end of the tunnel. And maybe, allow yourself to listen to the news, once, or twice a day at the most. It is good to give our brains time to rest and avoid overthinking what we have watched or read. Watch other shows apart from news, and talk to people about other topics.

If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbours.

                                                                                            Frank Sinatra.

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Being Your Own Composer In the Music of Life…

When the notes in your life seem wrong turn them into your own unique song.

September is here again and walking out from Dove Lane this morning I could sense a wistfulness in the air – a glimpse of change. The air is still warm enough to pop out without a coat and the grass is still a little dry from the long, summer days, but the blackberries are ripe in the hedges and there are some dry leaves crunching beneath my feet. Autumn waits in the wings and cooler air may soon whisper through the trees. We still have a few warm days to enjoy and but that summer holiday feeling is fading and we notice the gradual shortening of the days.

For some of us, any change, even a change in the seasons can encourage feelings of unrest if we are prone to anxious feelings. Sometimes it isn’t always easy to walk forward and embrace the next stage of our lives. Perhaps we feel events are looming we would rather not think about or we find it hard to be positive and look at the bigger picture. Maybe we are worried about past mistakes or imagined difficulties. Maybe we feel fearful because we hear and read so much in the media that unsettles us – especially lately! Most of us have days where we feel everything seems to be against us, or perhaps we can’t seem to focus or get things right. Just like a composer writing a song – sometimes the notes just come out wrong.

So there can be times when we feel out of tune with our surroundings. Maybe we are not in the right frame of mind to listen to or appreciate what we are seeing or hearing. I guess life is a bit like that – we can be swamped with worries or negative emotions at times, or even just the chaos of a busy day, so that all the good sights and sounds around us are smothered or blurred around the edges. But if we manage to take some time out – perhaps go and have a walk in the woods or just take ten minutes out of a busy day to have some quiet time – then we can often find we can enjoy the very things we previously felt out of kilter with.

In unhappy or muddled times, remember the clouds will one day pass. And the sooner you welcome the sun the sooner it appears. I find that remembering what I am grateful for helps me get through jittery times. I have learned through past experiences what supportive friends I have and also, how self-reliant I can be when I have to. I remind myself how limited our time on this planet truly is and that every second counts.

We are all connected and even if you feel you are struggling, remind yourself there is someone somewhere going through the same thing as you, and they are getting through it just like you will. You can dwell on what isn’t going your way or you can focus on what you have within your power to change.

If you think about what would happen if you just allowed yourself to live in the moment and not think about your current situation, how might that feel? Sometimes life is not about dreams coming true but what we learn when we take our path through life. There are times when we need to let go of our expectations and actually just concentrate on what is happening today. And remember, those past experiences or perceived missed opportunities we dwell on have actually made us stronger and given us our character.

So lets think again about a composer writing a song and this time the composer is you; even if your notes seem to sound wrong, they are your notes and you can turn them into the best song of all. Your song.

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Staying Sane in a Crazy World

I’ve been thinking this week about how we cope when all around us is in a condition of uncertainty. In the UK with the political situation nothing short of farcical, we could be forgiven for thinking that a decent solution to the current problems and deliberations will never be found.

Perhaps it is time to close our ears to illogical political theories and time to sift through the rules foisted on us that are the results of sometimes selfish and manipulative governing.

The world around us is suffering. This is nothing new – since time began there have always been monumental global challenges and there always will be. To list all the recent and ongoing global wars and tragedies would take us a long, long time, and finding a way forward seems impossible at times. We are heartbroken when we see innocent families fleeing their homes amid hostile conditions. We despair when we hear of countries in turmoil. We are disturbed by examples of greed and question some social policies. We see the divide between rich and poor become ever greater. In Europe we are exasperated by Brexit. Perhaps we cling to on to the fragile bonds of national identity, but how do we find what connects us universally?

What do we do to keep sane in this insane world?

I think the key is to maintain our relationship with reality. And that is much harder than we think. I’m not talking about the diversionary reality of Reality TV or social media here but the real reality that connects everyone with everything. As humans, we are not all-powerful but we are all powerful. We need to remember that there is both huge advantage AND limitation with power. When we understand that, we are able to maintain our sanity and manifest a saner world. WE have the power to choose new responses and keep our own lifestyles healthy. We may not be able to control our politicians and the way they use their power, but we can at least keep ourselves real.

None of us are completely rational at times. We can be afraid of everything that could go wrong or we can accept reality and make the best of it. Reasoning is good but sometimes emotions are good. Empathy is good. Getting depressed or angry about reality will not help us change things. If we use our own inner power we can become optimistic and have confidence to adapt to challenges and look for solutions.

Most of us look up to someone in this world who we admire. Often the people we admire the most are the gentle and peaceful ones, the ones who have no agenda, and no great personal ambitions. And yet they make their mark. Coherent and compassionate people have no need to dominate others, instead they seek to help rather than be in competition with others. Compassion freely shown reverberates around us like ripples in a pond.

Many times, bad things are predicted by those who think they are ‘in the know’. We are warned that all sorts of ills may befall us or the country if we don’t adhere to various policies. But when I think back to last weeks news it is mainly not relevant today as there have since been new twists or turns. There are now new predictions! And this is true of so many predictions we are either faced with, or make ourselves. Often what concerned us yesterday is forgotten and replaced by new concerns which in turn are replaced. Perhaps we should realise that most things get processed and dealt with one way or another. Can you remember what you were worrying about this time last year, or what was in the news headlines?

No one can deny that troubles occur, both in our immediate circles and in the outside world; often in life there is much to deal with. Interestingly, when we are focused on healing something in our own life, the outside world tends to carry on regardless and this should tell us something. We can just BE. We can think about the little things in life which are really the big things.

We are born with an inherent understanding of the world. It is a strange miracle that deep in our psyche we know things. When our minds are uncluttered we look benignly at the world and we are spiritually healthy. We are whole human beings and we have our own essence. Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of that.

Don’t break your own spirit. Your sanity depends on seeing the world as a good place, having faith in one another and believing in human dignity – not just in our own small corner of the planet but all around the world. It is not what people have become in this world that makes them special necessarily- it is what they are inside and how they behave when no one is looking.

Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with uncertainty at one time or another. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have amazing survival instincts. Out of the thousands of experiences we have in life, people doing wrong by us is not common. Most people are inherently good and we are biologically wired to love one another and to unite during bad times, and when we believe people are inherently good, this will determine how life treats us.

You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.’            Timber Hawkeye.

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Is ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’ Really a Problem?

‘Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things’.

I was thinking about how we go through our days, months and years; how we cope with life and the pressures we bear at times. We try to be diligent and concern ourselves with the rights and wrongs going on the world; what will happen about Brexit – how will the actions of President Trump impact upon us – what about global warming – the economy – the NHS – slipping standards in behaviour – the gloomy news we listen to everyday? I could keep adding to this never ending list…..

Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during that time are the ones that are making a difference.

Last Sunday, I was invited to a service of  remembrance at the local church. This was held in the early evening – and although it was Remembrance Sunday this was an additional service held for all those who had lost someone close to them in the last year. It was a way of honouring the memory of a loved one recently departed, and a chance to give thanks for their life: ‘A gentle service to remember loved ones no longer with us.’

The service was very moving and conducted by the ministers with love and grace. It gave everyone time. Time to reflect and think about those we loved and lost, in a calm and peaceful environment. Towards the end of the service we were invited up to the altar to add a flower to the cross laid at the front, together with a lighted candle. As we returned to our seats and the lights were dimmed we sat quietly in contemplation for a while, before saying goodbye and going out into the dark night.

The service was beautiful for so many reason. As I had watched everyone walking up to lay a flower for their loved ones, I realised again, that all we really want in this life is to love and be loved. Just as the flowers thrive with the warmth of the sun and the gentle rain, so we thrive when we are loved. We may feel bereft when we lose someone very dear to us, but we can reflect on all the love we shared with that person and be glad. Love is at times, responsible for causing us heartbreak and pain as well as great joy, but without it we are lost. And when we show love and receive love we don‘t really need to worry about the bigger picture – the big wide world; it is the small things in life that matter.

I watch cookery programmes often; with each new series of Masterchef or The Great British Bake-Off I get drawn back into the show and get to ‘know’ the latest contestants and their particular way of doing things. I watch as they sometimes dissolve into tears when a soufflé sinks or a casserole burns  and it is easy to get into a cynical way of thinking and judging, and then I wonder why? It’s good to get passionate about cake! It may not change the world but a good slice of cake can make someone’s day!

We are all striving to be the best we can be – to make something of ourselves and our lives and there is nothing wrong with that. If we feel bound to make a difference to the world then we should go for it! Where would we be without explorers and pioneers in every field; those who work relentlessly and discover new drugs and new ways of healing? There are so many people struggling tirelessly to help people and to care for those who need it most. They are often the people too, who still find time to stop and enjoy the small things in life.

So when we focus on the small things, the little things that concern us, I don’t think it is a bad thing. Of course, we don’t want to get stressed particularly, about blocked drains (me at the moment) or being cut up on the motorway or any of the daily annoyances that beset us all from time to time. But stopping to study the new shoots on the trees or listen to the birds can only ever do us good.  Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during the time are the ones that are making a difference.

It’s worth noting that the good feeling we get from taking some freshly baked bread from the oven or watching a child jump and play, is far more heartening than studying a politician arguing in a debate on the news, no matter how important the topic!

The good small things for me:  

Waking up and feeling good – making porridge the Cornish way.

Good hair days! A cup of tea in my favourite angel mug. My sister’s dog, Willow Writing a poem I am happy with. Going to the beach. Cooking a chocolate cake. Listening to Clifford T. Ward – listen to ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’it’s beautiful. Laughing with friends. Messages from my sons. ❤️❤️ Christmas movies. Looking at photos of my mum and dad. Listening to my husband singing along to ‘Sounds of the sixties.’ 🎼 Reading to my grandchildren 📖   Life is made up of moments. Collect them and keep them in your heart.    

The magic of starting to focus on these little, but important things, is that you will gradually change from focusing on what is missing in your life, to what is there. And when we feel grateful for what we have, we gradually add to our happiness levels, bit by bit.

      IMG_0071 What small things make you happy? I would love to hear from you.