…Trusting One (Based on Proverbs 29:25)

15776241_1094915333969388_454975165_oI am having to try extremely hard to embrace this particular truth on a dreary Sunday afternoon, when the reality of my recent decision to leave my job and life in Leeds is lurking in my mind.

Couple this with the added universal pressure of passing time. Time wasted pursuing unhelpful habits; time unallocated on precious weekend evenings; time unlimited by the vast expanse of the future. You can’t even escape the pressure of time when engaging in light-hearted leisure activities – such as shopping in the humour section of the card shop, when involuntarily faced with my particular new favourite design which reads: “the answer to avoiding a hangover? Being under 25”. While the contextual side note is that I have just had (no, not endured) my 25th birthday, it seems that this added cause of anxiety is an unavoidable reality – the nature of which is entirely inescapable.  I would be lying if I claimed that this reality did not have its moments of consuming me whole.

I look back in envy at my study of the concept of time as a fresh-faced first year philosophy student; amused by the prospect of time being anything other than this linear rope – the beginning of which I was near enough not to panic or fret about – at least, not yet. But now, I have days where I genuinely cannot have a single positive or joyful experience without spiralling into a frenzy of ‘what if??’s and ‘what on earth am I going to do now???’s. Just yesterday, I was enjoying a perfectly uneventful lunch with my parents, only to be interrupted by the infectious giggling and cooing of a sparkly-eyed toddler. Instead of fully embracing my instigated role of ‘peeker’ in the game of ‘peek-a-boo’ that followed, I found myself falling head-first into that dreaded spiral of thought:

What if I remain perpetually single?

What if I can’t have my own biological children?

What if I don’t end up with the job/ house/ family unit which will allow me to adopt?’

What on earth will I do then?

BUT then, thankfully, somewhere along the way:

Calm down, you’re only 25. Yes, only. 

Despite a multitude of  influences shaping my ‘self’ assurance, a light bulb moment helps me to recall the one influence that really matters to me – and that voice belongs to God: (Proverbs 30:25) “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe”

This scripture at surface level may seem vague and therefore void of comfort or assurance. But I challenge you to consider that these exact lack of specifics may allow for a specific outcome which you cannot conjure up, let alone consider. When engulfed in a web of anxiety, these words are honey to me – they are nourishing, and I can feel them energising me with every taste of them. I reflect on previous moments of despair about time and how I am carving my use of it – and then am lead to remember the solution of this despair, the common factor of which is always that I could not have come up with the answer myself. And so, my faith in God’s plan for my future, is restored.

Don’t get me wrong; this is by no measure my default thinking pattern. As I implied earlier, we must consciously choose to listen to those influences which positively impact us – and shut out those influences which send us into a frenzy of fear and panic.

For me, God’s promises make much more sense – aloof as they are – to me than any subtle persuasion from a card, instagram post or television advert which suggests that I need to consider my current circumstance at 25 a shambles and great lack of accomplishments.

So, I eagerly ask you to consider: what primarily influences your self-assurance?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…caring one” (based on Genesis 2:15)

We have just reached the drearier side of the festive season and inevitably, are facing the prospect of reevaluating the way we orchestrate our lives – the ‘new year’s resolution’. As a generally sensible and conscious individual, I am no exception to the temptation of this typical Western pattern of thinking (and attempt at implementing over hopefully forever, but most likely, the coming weeks).

I don’t need to harp on about the various plates we each spin which could be spun a little higher in an attempt to contribute to improving both our individual lives and society as a whole. Insert *habit* and *influential body/ organisation* and you’ve got yourself the opportunity to set yourself up to fail to exercise compassion and understanding towards yourself in an age where striving for more and for better are daily bread and butter for each and everyone one of us – regardless of age, religion, gender, or circumstance.

But, an eternal optimist, a precious thought crosses my mind: what if it doesn’t have to be this way?

I entertain a level of understanding for the reason why we each, to some level, end up engaging in this self-loathing trap. Ironically, I am genuinely convinced that a key factor driving this cultural trend is our innate desire to contribute to and nurture both our immediate community and environment. Why else would various avenues of sustainable living contribute to the majority of our new year’s resolutions? Embracing veganism; suggesting a carpool to work (or even making a concerted effort to use public transport); exercising stronger commitment to those friendships which really matter. The list goes on. What strikes me as common to these varying resolutions is the improvement of the individual, with a view to being able to contribute to one’s surrounding community – or the preservation of their environment. Whether driven by guilt or not, who can argue that this reason, at the bottom of it all, is no bad one?

I am Christian – so once this series of thoughts had crossed my mind, I immediately reflect: ‘oh yes – of course’. Genesis, one of the first chapters of the bible, speaks of God’s primary  roles for humankind in placing them on the earth – that is, to “cultivate and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).  Now, I don’t need to explain to you that the majority of the human population neither believe in nor follow Jesus – but I am convinced that, in spite of this reality, this purpose of God’s explains why humans across various diversities have an innate desire to protect and enhance the people and places which make up their immediate contexts.

Don’t get me wrong – I do think that we take it too far. We set too many goals for ourselves –  the nature of which are unrealistic and thus, unattainable. All I am saying is that maybe, maybe there’s a way that we can engage in this culture which allows us to make a significant contribution to our local communities and environments.

My own ‘resolved’ list of resolutions paints a picture of the possibility. For starters, I would love to contribute to sustainable methods of farming and the consequential positive impact on our ecosystem through committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet. But unfortunately, I have a history of struggling with anorexia – so this sort of new year’s resolution is just not an option for if I’m going to protect my general livelihood. What I can (and will) resolve to do instead, in order to contribute to sustainable farming methods, is to actively avoid engaging with the production of fabrics through the industrial (and largely unsustainable) farming of  crops – such as cotton farms. How? By only buying clothes and accessories which are recycled (vintage or charity shop finds), are produced using organically produced fabrics – or are from shops which seek to encourage the recycling of unworn clothes (‘& Other Stories’, for example, practise a fantastic scheme in which they offer a 10% discount on your total bill if you bring in a bag or old, unused clothes). This way, I can still challenge myself to make a positive contribution to our environment in a way that is both realistic and attainable for me, in spite of my individual circumstance.

Of course, there will be times when trying to source underwear made of organic cotton (I draw the line at vintage underwear) is going to be quite frankly inconvenient and difficult to source. But I’m pretty sure that that’s a healthy level of struggling with a challenge that I’ve set myself – which I believe is possible and is rewarding for us all.

So, for the next time you do what I did days ago and flippantly dismiss each and every ‘new year; new me!’ social media post, I encourage you to bear in mind what is likely that person’s real intention behind said resolution. And, if you agree with that reason, is there something you could do to care for the people and place you surround yourself with?

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…”Beautiful One”(Song of Solomon 2:10)

 

I’m contemplating the reality of this statement as it reads from a poster which is stuck intentionally above my mirror. On this particular Saturday evening, God’s words don’t ring so true given my matted top knot and toothpaste stained band t-shirt.

 

Fortunately, though, God’s words don’t need to feel real to be true. This reality is something which I am convinced can speak to each and every one of us – very much in spite of the messiness of our lives.

 

To paint a picture of how deeply I am persuaded by this fact, I will give you a glimpse of how splintered my day to day can be before I reach this conviction by the end of it. All the context you need is that I embody a classic Jekyll – and – Hyde case of anxiety and disordered eating habits. Most days, I fight with the disordered part of my brain that is convinced I am not deserving of the measly bagel with peanut butter which constitutes my sustenance until dinner. On a good day, Jasmine manages to shout louder than the (unwelcome) irrational bully which (uninvitedly) occupies my vital head space – and I somehow am able to enjoy my all-time favorite snack with friends over nonsensical chatter in the staff room. On a bad day, I pull myself away from the lunch time buzz and face the punishment of an empty stomach for just a few more hours.

But, as you may have gathered, I am a Christian gal (which is impossible to not say without sounding very cringey). You may or may not have read any of the bible, but all you need to know is that in various parts, it communicates that God gives us food not only as a source of fuel, but as a gift for enjoyment. Jesus expresses His warmth and welcome to individuals by inviting Himself to their homes to share a meal with them (not perhaps the best approach to arranging a meal in current day Britain, mind); if you have ever been invited to a church event, food in some form is always provided (well, you may be asked to contribute – it usually involves the concept of a ‘bring and share’ lunch). Food across various cultures is vastly diverse – a delicacy in one country may never have touched the palette of citizens in another country. But there is a common expression of generosity, joy and unity through the art of creating meals which has been uniquely pertinent in every culture since before the time of Jesus and which will continue beyond our grandchildren’s generation. This is because God intended for us to enjoy food with family and friends as one of the many gifts within His earthly kingdom.

As you can imagine, this does not sit easy with someone whose relationship with food is fraught and fragile. Yet, as I sat today at a Christian Women’s conference listening to the precious encouragement of a dear friend to meditate on God’s word in both the good and hard times so that I am equipped during the near-to-impossible times, something clicked. We may face struggles which, if left to develop, could destroy us. We don’t choose them, no. But we can choose how we react to them. And I choose to believe God’s truth that food is a gift to be enjoyed with others. The hardest consequence of this decision is that choosing to believe this truth does not change my default mind state. I must wake up every day and decide that I will act on my belief that food is good and use this truth to drown out the tantalizing voice of a disordered eating habit. But this consequence is one worth paying – why? – because I get to experience more of God through the colorful, rich, beautiful generosity of humans across various cultures who still know how to put on a good party in a broken world.

It occurred to me when I looked at my poster again earlier this evening that I actually read “beautiful one” as “worthy one”. Whatever your struggle is when you read that God thinks you are worthy, I encourage you to do a brief search online about what the bible has to say on your issue. I am convinced that God has something to say about it –  and amazingly, that is something life-giving and wonderful,  even when it doesn’t feel like it.

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