Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

REFLECTIONS ON SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY WHILST IN A TRANSITION

Guest blog by Denise McLoughlin tips and hints for facing the inevitable journey into older age.

When one is going into a new phase of life… Crossing another bridge – maybe the slightly fearful bridge to old age and all it entails- then it could be time to take stock  of where you stand in relation to your spirit, mind and body!

SPIRIT.

 Sunday – my day of rest and the time to meditate or look inwards -I thought I would share this wisdom I have encountered in various of my Quiet time books, one of which is “Streams in the Desert” by a lady called L B Cowman. Over the years I have found real treasures in this little book to guide me on my daily path. For example: ” Everything is possible for him who believes ” Mark 9:23

The “everything “mentioned here does not always come simply by asking, because God is always seeking to teach you the way of faith. Your training for a life of faith requires many areas of learning, including the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, and the courage of faith. Often you will pass through many phases of faith before you finally realize the result of faith- namely, the victory of faith.

When you have made your request to God, and the answer still has not come, what are you to do? Keep on believing His word. Do not be swayed by what you feel or see. Then as you stand firm, your power and experience are being developed, strengthened and deepened. God will often purposely delay in giving you the answer, and in fact the delay is just as much the answer to your prayer as is the fulfilment when it comes. (ref. Streams in the Desert, L Cowman, 12th May pg 191)

SOUL OR MIND

About the soul or mind side of life there is so much to say… I think the most important thing for me is to take control of thoughts because as you think, so you are! It is so easy to fall into a negative pattern of thinking, especially in today’s world.

I like to turn my thoughts to the positive and part of this is to embrace your life! I try to make my life a celebration because being alive is so special and time is short…. I make my days as pleasant and festive as possible! As we get older there is a tendency to get stuck in a rut and stagnating and not having an open mind …. We should counteract that by doing new things…learn something new- whether it is mastering your smartphone or learning a language or taking up dancing …in all its wonderful forms… or setting up your Bucket List… things you still want to do…. if you don’t think about it and plan for it.. you might never do it!!!

I made a Power Point presentation of my list and have actually achieved  some of my dreams like my road trips with the conversion of my car into a campercar… enabling me to travel on a budget.

THE BODY

When I had to face my ageing body, there is a lot to be said. What comes to my mind is that it is the only body we ‘ve got and as we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” we should look after our bodies… we all know we need exercise but if you are naturally a bit lazy like I am, this could be a schlep… I have, however, discovered how good one feels after a nice fairly brisk walk, out in nature …or even up and down the streets of your suburb, as I have recently started doing. Now if one has kept up with the part that technology plays in today’s life, then may I suggest that on your  smartphone you download a little app called Runkeeper which works with GPS and tells you how far,  and how fast  you have walked… nice encouragement I find.  Just think how impressed your children and friends will be when you show them the visual map tracked on your App! You can also compete against yourself and improve your fitness.

Then of course there is the whole boring thing of eating right or your diet. I once went on the Banting lifestyle for three months and felt wonderfully energetic, lost some weight and it worked.

Then there is the matter of sleep or rest … I find that if I read until the wee hours of the night, I battle to fall asleep, likewise if I am on my cell phone busy with Facebook or whatever, my brain won’t switch off.  I read about digital burnout and how technology in the forms of cell phone, computers email etc can affect your sleeping pattern – something to take into consideration.

 I now made a rule to switch off everything around 9.30 …to then start with a quiet routine eg a warm bath, a book( not too a  stimulating one ) and low light (candlelight in these load shedding days * South African phenomenon due to inadequate electrical provision* ) is perfect. They say you should try and go to bed more or less at the same time every night…it seems to work!

I am coping with the transition of getting older by adapting my lifestyle and trying to stick to good habits. In this way I care for my body, soul and perhaps most importantly my spiritual life!

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

FINDING MEANING IN LIFE AGAIN

Article and Photos by Denise Mclaughlan

Denise continues to share her Festive Journey, how she in turn was inspired by her grandmother. How often we just need the example of someone who has done something before to inspire us on our own journeys. It seems their courage can synthesise and help us get a firm grip to say yes to life.

Highlights of my life in these past 28 years was a month-long visit to Italy with a friend, learning to speak some Italian in preparation, and the wonder of travelling at will with no pre- bookings.  Did I mention that I have an adventurous spirit?

Another venture I particularly enjoyed was my long-distance train trips over a five-year period from Cape Town to Johannesburg – a 1800km distance with one-night sleepover – to visit old school friends and attend some reunions. Despite the fears that many South Africans have about train travel in S A, I took it on wholeheartedly, meeting people of other cultures and feeling like a true adventurer. Of course, the lure was also my memory of childhood train trips since my dad was a railwayman. I had a few interesting encounters on that ShosalozaMeyl train!

To get back to the adventurous spirit, which I think has come not only from my brave grandmother who went overseas alone at the age of 78, but also the fact that I have been blessed with lots of energy and good health. As an extrovert I enjoy new places and faces! I like to be stimulated whether it is by reading all kinds of books, joining a photography group, doing computer courses, or enjoying music theatre and movies. I simply love swimming and am not fussy…river, dam, pool or a cold Atlantic sea!

A very meaningful part throughout my life has been writing – letters, diary keeping and then journaling. I love describing places and experiences, also tried my hand at a spot of poetry and then of course my Quiet times with the Lord is also affirmed in the journal. I usually use different devotional books like the wonderful Streams in the Desert By Mrs LB Cowman,    Come to me Beloved My Beloved by Frances J Roberts,    Joyce Meyer and a more recently I have used a book “ Fear is Never your Friend by Gary L Richardson. When I still get depressed or anxious it helps to write about it and to take stock of where you are in your life. I tend to do a fair amount of introspection.

Now in my 70’s I realised a dream to go back to camping and road trips (in my married years we caravanned and had an old Land rover) I missed the great outdoors and after watching a lot of Youtube videos about camper conversions and solo road trips, I managed to find someone to adapt my relatively small Mazda Soho 1,4 into a tour car. I have a full-length bed, some side cubbyholes for packing and storage under the bed for small tent, camping chair and other camping gear. I did two solo road trips and described the fun I had in some newsletters which I sent out via Facebook and e-mail. I then acquired a blow-up 2-man canoe which my son and I have enjoyed. Unfortunately, I had to undergo shoulder surgery and have been out of action for around 7 weeks.  Yes I am feeling the pitfalls of ageing in that I get stiff when sitting, my knee seems to be playing up, I drink all the usual pills  – but what is keeping me young are my thoughts and attitude- I try to stay positive and adapt to changes. I take stock of all the aspects of my life regularly and am dabbling with the new buzzwords – living mindfully!  I endeavour to stay in the here and now- to notice the small things around me; to forgive and forget, to take the best out of my past and hand over the control of my future to God my Father.

Denise has brought so much meaning into her life by being aware of her thoughts and attitudes, it can be so easy to slump into negative thoughts and attitudes, she has spent a lot of time cultivating the garden of her mind, pulling out the weeds of toxic thinking and replacing them with positive and affirming thoughts, this all manifests in her being able to take on her Festive Journey and enjoy the life she has been given. How about you? Do comment and let us know how you have taken something negative and made something positive out of it.

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

PICKING UP THE BROKEN PIECES AND DENISE’S FESTIVE JOURNEY BEGINS

Article and photos by Denise McLaughlan

I am a lively and enthusiastic nearly 75-year-old woman who has embraced life despite 28 years on my own. I live in Cape Town South Africa in my 1837 characterful home. I have two grown-up children and three grandchildren, no other close family. I Grew up as an only child and used to feel lonely quite often. The latter has changed somewhat now that I am older and wiser.  Part of my nature has also been to engage with people, to be curious and have many interests. I have a a zest for living , and am not fazed by changes  – in fact I welcome new things- whether it be  learning all about technology, enjoying social media like Facebook trying new activities like PowerPoint collages or simply rearranging and decorating my house in a different way. I can bounce back from bad situations, for which I am thankful.

 Part of my ongoing verve is because since becoming a child of God, I have realised repeatedly that I cannot cope without Him in my life. He has led, guided, protected and provided for me for these 28 years since 1992, when I was only 47 and was broken, divorced, forced to go forward alone, find work (after 12 years at home). It wasn’t easy to get back into the workplace despite being a slightly-out- of -touch teacher and having worked in various fields such as an officer in the S A Army, selling insurance from a call-centre and many temporary jobs. I was fortunate to obtain the bond for my house and after 25 years it has been paid off!  My house has worked for me –providing income.

Over the years I was faced with times of unemployment, my children leaving home and having quite serious problems, depression and anxiety. I always believe there is help out there and one must go and get it. I attended Deryn’s Divorce Recovery workshop, I was active at my church and I resorted to my old-time journaling. Keeping a daily diary from my teenage days evolved into journaling my Quiet time with the Lord plus writing about and working through all the problems of the time. Later I started a blog and more recently some newsletters about my solo road trips in my converted Mazda camper car- more about that later!!

Some of the aftermath of the divorce was the ongoing problem of finances and so I started to take in boarders – or rather –tenants offering a room in my house plus sharing my kitchen, bathroom and at times my living area. So, doing I had extra income and felt safer after my children left home. I must admit I really enjoyed the young vibe and life in my home, which also freed me to pursue another great love of mine – weekend getaways and any form of travel. I would save or work as a showhouse sitter on Sunday afternoons just so I could afford a little trip…at first always looking for a friend to go along but lately I go it alone- if needs must be!

At around 60 years the young and fast call-centre environment got to me and I went back to teaching for two years- at a small Christian school where I had to take on Grade 2 and 3 in one class ( and this while I trained as a high school teacher!) I tackled it but then they realised I would be better with the Grade 5 and 6 class. This episode prepared me well for the next phase of my working life – that of being a part-time au pair for school going children working for one particular family. I was suited for this being a teacher, a mother and grandmother. This I did for 10 years – I mostly enjoyed this but it also had its difficult times. During this time, I started doing House-and –Pet sitting. Besides loving pets, it would give me that most welcome extra money – (always a toss-up with on whether to do maintenance on the house with it or save for a trip!?)

You will have gathered that I was inventive in surviving the working years, but this builds in faith that God will provide, and I never once went without a roof over my head or food to eat. I my next blog I will show you how my adventurous life developed over the years.  Please join me for the journey and I would be happy for you to comment below.

Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

ASK THE BIRDS AND THEY WILL TELL YOU!

I was waiting at the bus stop watching pigeons pecking away in the leaves looking for scraps of food, right next to them was a cigarette butt which they totally ignored. This set me thinking about the birds and how God designed them, how did they distinguish between what was good to eat and what was not? Did you know that in the book of Job, God said we will find answers in nature? “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.” Jesus himself referred to birds when he was teaching on God’s care and that we were not to worry “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

One of the fascinating things about birds is their migration. I first became really aware of this when I was visiting Finland one summer and saw a golden oriole, which I had always thought of as being a Southern African bird. I was told that it breeds in the northern hemisphere and winters in the south, its migratory route is straight up the eastern coast of Africa to the Baltic regions – Finland being on almost the same latitude as South Africa. How do the birds find their way? How do they know when to move? How do they know they will survive the trip?  What drives them to migrate? There are so many questions you can ask, and scientists are finding answers.

So, what do we ask the birds teach us about answers to some of our life questions – why do they migrate? For so many of us from the southern hemisphere we have had to migrate for survival to rear our families. We have realized that by staying we would not be able to survive financially or perhaps even physically with the levels of violence that were present in our countries of birth. God tells the birds to migrate so they can safely breed and rear their young in a place of bountiful food. You may have your own reasons to move from one place to another but migrating is usually about improving your circumstances. Not all birds make it to their new breeding grounds, there is also danger in migrating. Finding out everything you can before you make those decisions and making adequate preparations will lessen the risk of being taken advantage of, or even falling foul of immigration laws. You may also find yourself in a place where you cannot get the work you thought you would; you may find yourself the victim of local prejudices and still feel no better off than if you had stayed in your country of origin. This is the reason why it is so important to plan for these moves.

Knowing that Creator God has said he will provide for the birds of the air, should give us the confidence to move forward knowing He will provide our daily bread. The planning and preparation require the Where and When questions to be answered. I have had to move several times as my family kept on moving to different continents, and while I was still working it made sense to earn in a more valuable currency and to be near one of my children as well. The Lord did provide me with a good job for those years, but when I came to retire, it made more sense to move to the country where the majority of my extended family had settled so we could reform the family support system we had had in Southern Africa. Migrating does not mean that God will send a loaf of bread out of the sky on a parachute to feed you, but that He is giving you new opportunities to find work or become part of a community that you can contribute to. The golden oriels still had to go and find insects, build their nests and do the work of raising their fledglings, but they could do this in relative safety using their unfettered energy to look for food and prepare again for their southward flight in the autumn to warmer climes. The large population of golden orioles are widely distributed, stable and in no danger of being endangered, their migration pattern has seen to this. Migration has been God’s way of preserving His people, from the nomadic Israelites to modern man. Yes, nature will inform you -your Heavenly Father loves and values you more than even the birds whom He feeds daily and takes infinite care of. 

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

The Skip and Alignment with the Spirit Level

I was hurting after a betrayal of friendship and had taken myself off for the day to visit the Tate Modern Gallery in London for consolation and healing.  Art Galleries are my go-to place to lose myself and be inspired and I was really in need of a pick-me-up that day. As I walked around looking at the installations and pictures  I was feeling less than inspired when I walked into an Exhibition called “Between Object and Architecture” and saw a huge skip with builder’s rubble sitting in the middle of the floor, my first thought was the exhibition is not yet  open, but as looked around saw that the skip was part of the installations. I turned on my heel to head out of the door – ‘what rubbish’ I thought. I was stopped in my tracks as a thought came to me ‘go back in there until you have received the message you were looking for’. I turned around and started to look with new eyes at each of the pieces of discarded rubbish and slowly the message came through to me as I looked up and saw a row of old spirit levels in alignment at the top of the wall. Yes, I need to take this to the next level, the Spirit Level! Things need to be in alignment with the Spirit. When you experience the pain of broken relationships, if you take it to the next level, you may see that things were not in alignment with God’s plans for you.

The next piece of ‘rubbish’ was some old reinforcing wire that was wobbly and unstable. Yet when it is cast into concrete it becomes stable and it strengthens the concrete as well. That was pretty clear, relationships need to strengthen and support on another, otherwise they are unstable and fragile.

The next piece of ‘rubbish’ that spoke to me was three white porcelain tiles on the wall, where we were invited to write our feelings in the real world with our heart. Now the message was getting through!  On the first tile I wrote my hurt, the past, the emotional debris, the second tile I left quite blank leaving a big white clean space, freedom and emptiness and the third tile an open-heart expectant and hopeful for the future and new beginnings. As I continued to walk around looking at the pieces of rubbish, it was amazing how my spirit lifted, and I found healing. The next piece that spoke to me was a horizontal row of slabs going up the wall equidistant from each other. Yes, start at the bottom and work your way up to the next level, and the next, and the next until you reach the top where you need to be.  We have so many levels and layers in our lives and it is when we start getting each level and layer into alignment with God’s will for our lives and the purpose he has for us that we make progress towards where we are meant to be.

I left the exhibition on a high note, not believing I could have been inspired by a skip full of building rubble!  There was one more exhibit that left me dancing all the way home. It was a video installation of dance, the inscription was “Performance art is about joy, about making something so full of wild joy you can’t put it into words” Art has that effect on me, something you can’t put into words, something that speaks directly to the soul.

In my previous blog on building from the ground up, I spoke about a skip full of all the old negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you built your relationships on, that had broken down. Before you walk out of the door, examine them to find the part they played in getting you to the next level.  What level was your relationship, was it at basement level or at Spirit level? Ask God to show you clearly the next level you need to be getting into alignment with his plans and purposes for your life. How about taking three blank sheets of paper and writing your feelings in the real world with your heart? I hope after doing this exercise you would be able to dance with a joy that you can’t put into words. I would love to hear how you connected with this, do put it in the comments below!